Texting helps innovative public health student win again

March 26, 2014 10:00 AM

Deirdre Boling

Alejandra Leyton, a graduate student in the Tulane University School of Public Health, has won another global challenge, this time focused on mental health. This is the second time this academic year that Leyton and her challenge partner, University of Maryland medical student Veena Katikineni, have won an innovation challenge, both from Scientists Without Borders.   

Alejandra Leyton

Alejandra Leyton has come up with an idea to increase awareness and utilization of mental health services for depression and anxiety disorders in the developing world. (Photo by Paula Burch-Celentano)

The most recent challenge, sponsored by Johnson & Johnson, called for ideas to increase awareness and utilization of mental health services for depression and anxiety disorders among patients in the developing world. 

Leyton and Katikineni proposed “Mhealth for Mental Health,” which would use SMS text messages to deliver information about community resources and mental health disease to depressed or anxious individuals and their communities. The use of mobile technologies, they purport, would empower patients to seek help in combating mental health problems. 

“Mental diseases are still not getting all the attention they should in the developing world,” says Leyton. 

The pair “drew lessons from our own experiences both in the developing and developed world to consider the barriers to dealing with any kind of personal problem and securing continued social support,” they say. 

Leyton and Katikineni will share the $10,000 prize, with Leyton planning to use part of the prize to attend the Tulane summer public health course in Cuba. 

Last fall, the pair won the top prize in the Incentive Challenge to Improve Dairy Data for a creative idea to increase quality of milk and nutrition as well as income for dairy farmers.

Although neither challenge included development of the solution proposed, they have already received interest in their dairy challenge solution and hope to receive interest to develop the mental health project too.

Dee Boling is director of communications for the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000 website@tulane.edu