LIVEX – Empowering Lives: A Landmark Dissemination Meeting on Improving Physical and Mental Wellbeing of Persons Affected by NTDs.

On the 25th of June, 2024, a significant event took place at the Orange Hall of Dannic Hotels, New Haven, Enugu. RedAid Nigeria hosted a one-day dissemination meeting for their groundbreaking research project titled “Improving Physical and Mental Wellbeing of Persons Affected by NTDs: A 4-Arm Cluster Randomized Trial.” This project LIVEX (Persons with Lived Experience), funded by Effect Hope Canada and DAHW Germany, has been a beacon of hope and innovation since its inception on October 1st, 2022.

The goal of this innovative project is to Improve the well-being (physical, mental and socioeconomic) and quality of life of persons affected by NTDs in Nigeria.

The project set out to achieve the following objectives:

  1. To ascertain the effectiveness, acceptability and feasibility of providing both mental health and self-care interventions in an integrated approach.
  2. To improve quality of life and social inclusion as well as reduce disability and cost of healthcare by families affected by leprosy, Buruli ulcer (BU) and lymphatic filariasis (LF).
  3. To explore sustainable approaches to enhance the quality of care for these communities.

Key Approaches of the Project

  1. Identification, Capacity Building, and Engagement of NTD Champions, Health care workers and community volunteers:
    • The NTD champions are individuals affected by NTDs who volunteer to share their lived experiences, serving as skilled local trainers and project team leaders.
  2. Use of Integrated Self-Help Groups (SHGs):
    • The project employed SHGs of persons affected by leprosy, LF, and BU to provide peer counselling, mental health, and self-care support. This integrated approach aims to compare the outcomes of mental health and self-care practices between SHGs facilitated by NTD Champions and those facilitated by healthcare workers (HCWs).

The Meeting: A Gathering of Minds and Hearts

The dissemination meeting was a convergence of diverse stakeholders, including representatives from the Federal Ministry of Health (Neglected Tropical Disease and National Mental Health Programme), state tuberculosis, leprosy, and Buruli ulcer control programs, healthcare workers from various LGAs, local government supervisors, NTD coordinators, DAHW Germany, Purple Hope Initiative Nigeria, and the National Coordinator of Human Rights Volunteer Corps. The assembly also included NTD-Champions from Abia and Enugu States, a consultant psychiatrist, a clinical psychologist from the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Enugu, and an epidemiologist/biostatistician from Ebonyi State University, Abakaliki. In total, 41 participants graced the event.

Key Objectives and Presentations

The meeting aimed to:

  • Present an overview of the project to stakeholders.
  • Disseminate the research findings, challenges, and the way forward with relevant stakeholders and policymakers.

Presentations covered various aspects, including the overview of the LIVEX project implemented from October 1st, 2022, to June 30th, 2024, testimonies and success stories from NTD-Champions, the human rights of persons affected by NTDs, and detailed research findings.

Impactful Recommendations

The meeting concluded with a set of insightful recommendations compiled by the Communique Committee:

  1. Engagement of NTD-Champions:
    • The project recommends involving NTD-Champions in providing self-care and psychosocial support, significantly contributing to improved self-esteem, mental health, and quality of life for persons affected by NTDs.
  2. Integration of Self-Care and Mental Health Interventions:
    • It suggests that integrating these interventions for persons affected by NTDs has proven to be acceptable, effective, and feasible in enhancing their mental health and quality of life.
  3. Establishment of Integrated Self-Help Groups:
    • The creation of SHGs with a community volunteer as a member of each group is encouraged to foster community-based support.
  4. Joint Monitoring of Implementation:
    • Future projects should adopt joint monitoring with relevant stakeholders, especially policymakers, to ensure effective implementation and sustainability.

A Call to Action

The preservation and enhancement of the physical and mental well-being of individuals affected by NTDs cannot be overstated. As we move forward, the insights and recommendations from this dissemination meeting serve as a critical foundation for future endeavours. The collective efforts of stakeholders, guided by the innovative approaches of the LIVEX project, promise a brighter, healthier future for communities affected by NTDs.

RedAid Nigeria’s dedication and collaborative spirit continue to pave the way for impactful change. The groundwork laid by this project stands as a testament to what can be achieved through inclusion, innovation, and a shared vision for a heathier community.

Stay tuned for more updates on this transformative journey, as we work together to uplift and empower the lives of those touched by NTDs.

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