19. December 2022

€1,7 million for research into child and adolescent mental health from Kavli Trust

The Kavli Trust Programme on Health Research has awarded a total of €1,7 million to the The Norwegian Center for Child Behavioral Development (NUBU) and the University of Roehampton for research projects aiming to provide knowledge to evidence gaps in child and adolescent mental health.

The two projects have been awarded funding from The Kavli Trust Programme on Health Research, following a thorough application and review process.

1. “Supportive parents – coping kids (SPARCK)”

The project will address the following evidence gap:
4. What is the effect of parenting interventions for child and adolescent mental health?
Amount:  9,969 million Norwegian kroner ( € 950 000)
Total project cost: 27,296 million Norwegian kroner ( € 2,6 million)
Project period: 2023-2027
Project owner: The Norwegian Center for Child Behavioral Development (NUBU)
Principal investigator: Truls Tømmerås
Collaborating institutions: University of Stanford, University of Oxford, Norwegian Center for Mental Disorders Research (NORMENT), University of Oslo, East and South Regional Center for Child and Adolescent Mental Health, OsloMet.

Supportive parents – coping kids (SPARCK) is a new preventive parent intervention targeting parents with children aged four to twelve years with symptoms of anxiety, depression and/or behavioural problems.

The children and families in the target group are affected by problems that are not on a level to receive support from the specialized mental health services.

SPARCK is transdiagnostic in the sense that it targets several types of problems and symptoms. The content and strategies are collected from different theories to provide a diverse toolkit individually tailored to address various user needs.

In the current project, researchers will conduct a randomised effectiveness trial across 24 municipalities with 260 to 390 families randomised to SPARCK or regular care in the frontline services.

They will study potential effects of SPARCK on child symptoms, parenting practices, and referrals to specialized mental health services and child welfare services (BUP), as well as on parent and child stress regulation as indexed by stress hormones.

The overall aims are to produce data on parenting interventions for child mental health, and to innovate frontline services with a usable and effective parenting intervention for prevention of child mental health problems.

“We are very happy to receive funding for our project “SPARCK” and the opportunity to produce new evidence on parenting interventions to prevent child and adolescent mental health problems,” says principal investigator for SPARCK, Truls Tømmerås.

“We are particularly happy to receive funding from Kavli Trust, as we highly appreciate their efforts to avoid wasted research, as well as the inclusion of user and stakeholder perspectives in the funding process. We hope that the outcomes of the SPARCK project may benefit children, families and the Norwegian municipal health services, and we are very excited to start the work,” says Tømmerås.

THE RESEARCH TEAM From left: Truls Tømmerås, Sissel Torsvik, Anett Apeland, Hanne Laland, Maria Begôna Gomez, Anette Arnesen Grønlie, Agathe Backer-Grøndahl, Line Ragna Aakre Karlson, Andreas Høstmælingen. Missing from the picture: Anne Arnesen and Görel Eriksson Bringedal. 

2. “Promoting mental health among at-risk adolescents in Malaysia”

The project will address the following evidence gap: 2. What is the effect of school-based psychosocial interventions to promote mental health in children and adolescents?
8,035 million Norwegian kroner (€ 765 000)
Total project cost: 10,870 million Norwegian kroner (€1 million )
Project period: May 2023 – April 2026
Project owner: University of Roehampton
Principal investigator: Cecilia A. Essau
Collaborative institutions: University of Exeter, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Sunway University, Universiti Malaysia Sabah, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, and Universiti Malaya

Principal investigator Professor Cecilia A. Essau and her team at the University of Roehampton, United Kingdom, will undertake a new study evaluating a school-based psychosocial intervention among adolescents who are at high risk of developing anxiety and/or depression.

The research team will evaluate whether Super Skills for Life (SSL) – a psychosocial intervention delivered by school staff – is successful in reducing anxiety and depression and at promoting mental health among at-risk adolescents, age 12-14 years, from low-income communities in Malaysia.

Cecilia A. Essau. Photo: University of Roehampton

The study will be conducted in 20 schools in economically deprived regions in the Malaysian states of Sarawak, Sabah, and Selangor.

If proven to have significant impact on adolescent’s outcomes and represent good value for money, the study will influence health and education policy and practice and provide a model for promoting mental health in Malaysia and other low- and middle-income countries.

“We are absolutely delighted to be given the opportunity to undertake this research because adolescents from low-income households who are at high risk of developing anxiety and/or depression often do not have access to treatment due to cost and stigma related to mental health problems. This research has a potential of overcoming barriers by providing accessible and culturally accepted intervention to vulnerable adolescents,” says Cecilia A. Essau.

The aim is that the study will generate new knowledge that will enhance our understanding of interventions to promote mental health in vulnerable adolescents.

“Training school staff to facilitate psychosocial intervention has the potential to reduce the treatment gap and deliver sustainable services needed to leverage existing mental health care systems in low- and middle-income countries,” says Essau.

Read more: Promoting mental health among at-risk adolescents in Malaysia

THE RESEARCH TEAM From upper left Helen Dodd, Alejandro de la Torre, Suzaily Wahab, Noor Azimah Muhammad, Alvin Lai Oon, Julia Lee Ai Cheng, Chuong Hock Ting, Suwaibah Zakaria, Nik Daliana Nik Farid, Hazreen Abdul Majid. 

Thorough process

The call for proposals and review of applications have followed the established guidelines for the Kavli Trust Programme on Health Research.

A total of 26 evidence gaps were identified through a thorough process, starting with a strategic scientific committee carrying out updated searches for systematic reviews in selected databases to identify significant evidence gaps in child and adolescent mental health.

A user panel that consisted of patients, their carers and relevant health professionals, then ranked the 26 evidence gaps. Each user ranked which eight evidence gaps they considered most important, and which eight they considered least important.

Read more: Call for proposals 2022 (closed)

The ten evidence gaps that were ranked highest by the user panel were then included in the call for proposals for 2022. This meant that applicants were encouraged to design studies addressing one or more of the ten selected evidence gaps.
A total of 46 pre-proposals were submitted by the deadline of March 15th 2022. The pre-proposals were reviewed by the Kavli Trust Scientific Review Committee, which consists of five professionals with relevant and high academic and scientific standing.

The pre-proposals were reviewed and ranked according to the following three criteria:

  • Excellence
  • Impact
  • Quality and efficiency of the implementation

At the end of May, the applicants of the ten highest-ranked pre-proposals were invited to prepare and submit full proposals.

A total of nine full proposals were submitted. First, the members of the review committee individually scored the proposals. Second, the review committee members met and discussed the proposals in a panel meeting led by the managers of the Kavli Trust Programme on Health Research.

Ground-breaking and innovative

“With this thorough process, we wish to ensure that the Kavli Trust funds are allocated to useful research. This means research projects that address evidence gaps based on existing evidence as well as being of importance and benefit for the users,” says Senior Advisor for the Kavli Trust Programme on Health Research, Ida Svege.

Svege describes this year’s call for proposals as very exciting, with several ground-breaking, innovative projects.

“The Scientific Review Committee stated that the quality of the proposals discussed at the panel meeting was high, and that the majority of the projects were worthy of funding. The academic standard was at a very high level,” says Svege.

THE ADMINISTRATION From left General Manager at Kavli Trust, Inger Elise Iversen, senior adviser Ida Svege and Program Manager Jan-Ole Hesselberg. Photo: Anne Elisabeth Næss/Kavli Trust

“We congratulate the recipients of this year’s allocations of research funds from Kavli Trust. We look forward to contributing to this important work of generating new evidence on how to prevent and reduce mental health challenges in children and adolescents, says General Manager of Kavli Trust, Inger Elise Iversen.

“It is a joy to see so many prominent academic communities and researchers represented in the proposals. The academic standard is of a very high quality,” she adds.

Pleased to expand internationally

Iversen mentions one study that will be carried out in Malaysia in collaboration between British and Malaysian researchers.

“Anxiety and depression in children and adolescents is a global challenge with great costs for both society and individuals in many countries. We are therefore pleased to expand our international involvement and research into child and adolescent mental health,” says Iversen.

“If we are to succeed in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals, we must also contribute to solving the problems in the societies that are most affected by the challenges of our time. Data from this project can be transferred to both low- and middle-income countries, and will potentially improve interventions for children and adolescents in areas with poor access to mental health services,” she points out.

Including this year’s allocations, the health research programme has allocated funds to a total of 15 research projects since its inception in 2017. The total allocated amount is NOK 136,5 million.

This autumn, Kavli Trust and the Norwegian Dam Foundation agreed to continue their collaboration through the Kavli Trust Programme on Health Research until 2025.

The programme aims to allocate a total of NOK 200 million for research into child and adolescent mental health in the period 2017-2025.

Read more: Viderefører samarbeid for å sikre nyttig forskning (Norwegian)