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Health Service & Population Research

Organisational unit: Department

Contact information

Institute of Psychiatry
De Crespigny Park
London
United Kingdom

Organisation profile

Researchers in the Health Service and Population Research Department (HSPR) aim to understand the different factors that contribute to mental illness better, and to improve the quality of life of people with mental health problems all over the world.

As an example, our researchers are contributing to a project involving colleagues across Europe and beyond that is studying how genes and life experiences work together to affect someone's chances of developing schizophrenia [1]. Another group of HSPR researchers investigate the causes of dementia as part of a major international programme that ultimately aims to secure better care for older people in low and middle income countries [2].

We invent or adapt affordable ways of offering treatment and support to people who experience mental health problems, taking account of culture and circumstance, and then test their effectiveness.

In England, for example, HSPR researchers are evaluating the success of specially designed training that aims to help staff support the personal recovery of people with mental health problems, in line with government policy. In low-income countries such as Ethiopia, India and Nigeria, where lack of knowledge and lack of investment mean most people do not have access to any treatment, HSPR researchers are helping governments to train non-specialist health workers to use mental health treatment guidelines developed by the World Health Organisation [3]. We work with researchers and health professionals in many developing countries to help generate and test low-cost, effective training, treatments and interventions that can be replicated in a sustainable way.

We also collaborate with service users, their families and voluntary sector organisations to change attitudes and behaviour towards people with mental ill health, and to eliminate the widespread stigma and discrimination that can curtail people's recovery and, in some countries, plays a part in the neglect and social isolation of people with mental health problems. 

Our specialist teams of researchers
HPSR consists of specialist teams who have expertise in a particular field – recovery, mental health nursing, women's mental health, global mental health, social psychiatry and epidemiology, for example. Each team is led by a senior researcher who works alongside junior members of staff and PhD students. (In total, there are more than 40 PhD students at any one time carrying out research all over the world with the support of HSPR.)

One of those specialist teams is made up of researchers who have personal experience of mental health problems. The pioneering SURE (Service User Research Enterprise) is one of the largest units within UK universities to employ people who have both research skills and experience of using mental health services – people who can use their personal experience to make their research more pertinent.

Another team comprises health economists who, within the Centre for the Economics of Mental and Physical Health, undertake cost-effectiveness strands of studies carried out by HSPR and by researchers elsewhere in the UK and abroad. Their work proves value for money and adds to the weight of evidence that can convince policy-makers and governments to invest more resources in mental health care.

Sharing our knowledge and skills
Many of our researchers share their knowledge and skills with students through our two taught programmes – the MSc in Mental Health Service and Population Research and an MSc in Global Mental Health. The latter is run in collaboration with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) through the Centre for Global Mental Health (a collaborative venture between LSHTM and King's Health Partners). We also organise a variety of short courses throughout the year for health professionals and junior researchers, including an annual Summer School.

Working in every continent
HSPR hosts a World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre for Research and Training in Mental Health. This means we support World Health Organisation campaigns and programmes, helping to put mental health on government agendas and working with professionals around the world to develop locally appropriate services. (The Institute of Psychiatry was given the status of WHO Collaborating Centre for Research and Training in Mental Health in 1992.)

Members of HSPR also take a leading role in the Movement for Global Mental Health, a worldwide campaign for better treatments and services that respect human rights. The Movement grew from a series of articles in the pages of The Lancet in 2007 that provided evidence for the need for investment in both services and research. Our researchers were among the authors of those landmark articles, and of articles included in a second Lancet series in 2011.

Tools and measures that aid research and clinical practice
Over the past two decades, we have developed a portfolio of original tools and measures for use in both clinical practice and research. The Camberwell Assessment of Need, for example, is used around the world to help health and social care professionals fully understand the problems and difficulties experienced by people have a severe mental illness, and then plan appropriate care and support. HSPR has also developed a family of scales to measure stigma and discrimination experienced by people with mental health problems: the UK government now uses some of them in its annual survey measuring public attitudes in England.

Professor Martin Prince
HSPR is led by Martin Prince, who is a Professor of Epidemiological Psychiatry and Co-director of the King's Health Partners/London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (KHP/LSHTM) Centre for Global Mental Health.

His work is oriented to the salience of mental and neurological disorders to health and social policy in low and middle income countries (LMIC), with a focus on ageing and dementia. He has coordinated, since 1998, the 10/66 Dementia Research Group - a network of researchers, mainly from LMIC, working together to promote more good research into dementia in those regions. The group has published 100 papers covering dementia prevalence, incidence, aetiology and impact and contributed to knowledge of public health aspects of ageing and chronic disease in LMIC.  Professor Prince was co-author of the Dementia UK report that informed the UK Government’s National Dementia Strategy. He led the development of the widely reported ADI World Alzheimer Reports for 2009 (prevalence and numbers), 2010 (societal cost) and 2011 (early intervention), and was a leading contributor to the WHO World Dementia Report 2012. He was one of three editors for the 2007 Lancet Series on Global Mental Health, and is committed to further research and advocacy to support the call for action for improved coverage of evidence-based community treatments. He coordinated the development of the WHO Mental Health Gap Action Plan (mhGAP) clinical guidelines for dementia care by non-specialists in LMIC.

Queen's Anniversary Prize
In 2009, HSPR was awarded a Queen's Anniversary Prize its work. You can download our submission, which describes the scope of the department's work at that time.

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