The grant will allow Swahn to conduct a five-year research study in Kampala, Uganda evaluating the impact of learning entrepreneurship skills on poverty and mental illness among young women.
The NIH awarded Swahn with the Research Project Grant, which supports health-related research. According to the NIH, the award is granted to “support a discrete, specified, circumscribed project to be performed by the named investigator(s) in an area representing the investigator’s specific interest and competencies.”
According to the NIH, receiving funding from a Research Project Grant requires the completion of an application process while competing against other proposals.
“This grant is such a gift. It allows us to work with a really strong interdisciplinary team and to conduct this important research,” Swahn said. “The grant fits beautifully into the overarching research agenda that we have established for the past ten years. It is really challenging to get funds to study mental health in the global context, so we are very grateful that NIH has invested in this research.”
According to Swahn, young women in Uganda with limited education opportunities will be trained to learn job skills. The effects of the training on the women will be studied. A goal of the project is to break the stigma around mental illness and treatment by discovering a method of assisting those who may not seek the help they need.
The primary focus of the study is mental health, but the study will also increase the understanding of the community, environment and living conditions in Uganda. Swahn and her colleagues refer to the research plan as the Topowa Project, with “topowa” meaning never give up in Luganda, the primary language in Kampala. She is currently developing a study abroad program in Uganda for Kennesaw State students to participate in the research.
Swahn and her colleagues are hoping to grow their area of research with the NIH’s grant and by continuing to apply to other funding opportunities. She has had a grant from the NIH to study in Uganda previously.
The interdisciplinary team includes the Uganda Youth Development Link and researchers from three different universities: Kennesaw State University, Georgia State University and Makerere University of Kampala. Ebony Glover, an associate professor of psychology, will be representing KSU with Swahn.
“There are many unmet mental health needs in Uganda, but the same can be said for the U.S. If the intervention works well in Uganda, we can adapt it for implementation here in the U.S.,” Swahn said.
Swahn previously worked for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, served as associate vice president and associate dean for research for the College of Health and Human Sciences at GSU and published 179 research publications. Her previous research deals with HIV in Uganda, mental health and alcohol-related harm.