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Developing a scalable digital program for stress reduction and mental health promotion for community health workers in rural India.


2021 - 2022


Madhya Pradesh, India


Dr. Anant Bhan and Dr. John Naslund



By recognizing the mental health needs of CHWs, our study seeks to address a major gap in the global mental health literature by developing and pilot testing a digital stress reduction and mental health promotion program for CHWs embedded within an ongoing large-scale NIMH U19 implementation project called ESSENCE (Enabling Science to Service to ENhance depression CarE) focused on scaling up mental health services in primary care in rural India. This project will afford the unique opportunity to develop and evaluate the feasibility, acceptability and preliminary effectiveness of a stress reduction program tailored to the needs, context, and local culture.




 Our exploratory findings hold promise for offering a scalable approach to reducing stress to support frontline health workers in delivering evidence-based mental health services in low-resource settings. This study could also offer insights for alleviating the added burden and elevated stress levels and risk of burnout among CHWs in LMICs due to the ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Progress till date


Phase 1: Develop a scalable digital stress reduction program for CHWs in rural India- We have selected the World Health Organization (WHO)’s evidence-based Self Help Plus (SH+) intervention for psychological distress for the adaptation.  

Phase 2: Evaluate the feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary effectiveness of the program- We conducted a pilot study with CHWs. We evaluated program feasibility and acceptability through self-report measures, objective user engagement, and program completion data, supplemented with focus group discussions. We will assess preliminary effectiveness in reducing psychological distress and improving job performance and quality of life using self-report measures.

Phase-2 Analysis of study data is in progress.




Harvard Global Health Institute (HGHI), Boston, USA




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