Professor Manasi Kumar

Talk: “Theory of Change and design thinking embedded mental health promotion agenda setting for peripartum adolescents in Kenya to adapt WHO/UNICEF program on Helping Pregnant and Parenting Adolescents Thrive


The voices and perspectives of peripartum adolescent and young women have traditionally been neglected within health services design. User-centered design is a novel modality to explore their perspectives on mental health prevention and promotion opportunities that are availed to them.

This study took place within the context of World Health Organization’s and UNICEF’s Helping Adolescents’ Thrive (HAT)- Kenya program and is also nested within the NIH funded ‘Implementing mental health interventions for pregnant adolescents in primary care LMIC settings’ (INSPIRE) study in Kenya. The study was conducted in two government owned urban based health care facility sites among perinatal adolescent participants (n=10), policymakers (n=8), providers (n=8), and civil society members (n=5). The study brought the participants through a series of 7 workshops which included role plays and diaries to examine the meaning of mental health promotion and prevention, drawing upon their perspectives and experiences.

The paper describes a theory of change-led mapping exercise that examines the meaning of mental health promotion for peripartum adolescents in Kenya. This mapping was accompanied by a concomitant user-centered design process that focused on what ‘form’ and ‘specific shape’ the promotion agenda and activities could look like. While the Theory of Change brought together key peripartum adolescent and young women stakeholders, women, others representing policy, practice, and civil society members also joined the workshops.

The Theory of Change conceptual map described in this manuscript can guide the process of intervention and policy development in general and more specifically for the Helping Adolescents Thrive program.

Manasi Kumar is working as a Senior Implementation Scientist at the Brain and Mind Institute, Aga Khan University. As an affiliate senior lecturer at the Department of Psychiatry, University of Nairobi, she is involved in NIH funded research on peripartum adolescents living with depression. She has wide experience mentoring lay, non-specialist and specialist health workers in WHO’s mhGAP as well as low intensity mental health evidence-based interventions. For last 10 years her focus has been on strengthening teaching of mental and behavioral sciences in undergraduate and postgraduate medical education programs in various East African and South Asian geographies. She works on disparities in health systems in lower- and middle-income countries with a focus on mental health systems strengthening and maternal, child and adolescent mental health research. She is an affiliate associate professor at Department of Global Health in University of Washington Seattle, US and University College London. She is supported by Fogarty International Centre, NIMH, UNICEF and UK’s NIHR research grant mechanisms..

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