Mhealth helps innovative public health student win again

Alejandra Leyton

Public health graduate student Alejandra Leyton has won
another global challenge, this time focused on mental

(Photo by Paula Burch-Celentano)

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

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 said.

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

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 this project too.


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


March 14, 2014
Deirdre Boling



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