Much of the public health work in Africa in the past decades has been dedicated to treating and curbing the transmission of infectious diseases in Africa.  Significant decreases in mortality from communicable diseases have been achieved. However in the place of infectious diseases, chronic non-communicable diseases including mental illness are on the rise. These diseases are responsible for much morbidity and disability.  Mental illness is often a comorbidity associated with other illnesses, poverty and civil instability.  Mental illness is associated with stigma and may be a barrier to patients seeking mental healthcare services and receiving a diagnosis and appropriate treatment. 


Astier AlmedomDr. Astier M. Almedom is an Oxford-trained anthropologist and behavioral scientist who has conducted interdisciplinary field research on human adaptation, health, and resilience in its multiple dimensions in different countries in Africa and Asia. Astier served as the Henry R. Luce Professor in Science & Humanitarianism at Tufts University in Massachusetts, publishing extensively on measurements of human resilience, social capital and mental health during the past decade. Having actively contributed to the development of the basic public health (safe water supply, sanitation and hygiene) and humanitarian Accountability standards espoused by the SPHERE project and the Humanitarian Accountability Partnership (HAP), Dr. Almedom remains interested in the disjuncture between the (universal) community resilience imperative and the international humanitarian imperative. Astier is currently working on a new collaboration with George Bonanno (Columbia University, Teachers College) and her colleagues at Lund University’s Centre for Sustainability Studies (LUCSUS) directed by Lennart Olsson, to develop methods and tools for measuring/assessing community resilience, with funding support from the Rockefeller Foundation and Lund University in Sweden. Astier is a native of Eritrea who considers herself, like many Eritreans in Eritrea and in the diaspora, an active global citizen.


Felton Earls

Dr. Felton Earls is Professor Emeritus of Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Research Professor of Human Behavior and Development at the Harvard School of Public Health. From 1990 to 2005 he was Principal Investigator of The Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods, a longitudinal study on the causes and consequences of children’s exposure to urban violence. Its seminal contribution has been to demonstrate the independent effects of neighborhood collective efficacy on the physical health and well-being of children and adolescents. His newer project, the Ecology of HIV/AIDS and Child Mental Health is a randomized community-level trial aimed at mitigating the impact of the AIDS epidemic on the growth and development of young adolescents in Tanzania. The study builds on strategies and results of the Chicago project to strengthen a community’s capacity to protect children in the context of a major social disruption.

Dr. Earls, a native of New Orleans, LA, completed both his undergraduate and medical education at Howard University. His postdoctoral training included a fellowship in neurophysiology at the University of Wisconsin, internship in pediatrics at New York Medical College, residency in general psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital and in child psychiatry at the Hospital for Sick Children in London, and training in public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.


maggiDr. Julie Maggi is an Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto, Department of Psychiatry, a staff psychiatrist, Medical Psychiatry Service at St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto, Canada, and the Director of Postgraduate Medical Education at St. Michael’s Hospital. Her clinical focus is HIV Psychiatry and Women’s Mental Health, with a particular interest in the care of refugees. She has been involved as a teacher, supervisor, and organizer in the Toronto Addis Ababa Psychiatry Project, which is an innovative medical education project joining the University of Toronto and Addis Ababa University, aimed at increasing capacity of clinical and academic psychiatrists in Ethiopia. She has conducted research on the learning needs of Psychiatrists in Sub-Saharan Africa, in the area of HIV Psychiatry. Other research has included understanding the social support needs of women living with HIV, particularly the needs of immigrant women from countries where HIV is endemic, and understanding the mental health needs of immigrants, refugees, and individuals without legal status in Canada who have HIV disease.