Cultural and contextual adaptation of mental health measures in Kenya: An adolescent-centered transcultural adaptation of measures study


Vincent Nyongesa, Department of Psychiatry, University of Nairobi, Nairobi, Kenya.
Joseph Kathono, Department of Psychiatry, University of Nairobi, Nairobi, Kenya.
Shillah Mwaniga, Nairobi Metropolitan Services, Nairobi, Kenya.
Obadia Yator, Department of Psychiatry, University of Nairobi, Nairobi, Kenya.
Beatrice Madeghe, Department of Food and Nutrition Sciences, University of Nairobi, Nairobi, Kenya.
Sarah Kanana, Nairobi Metropolitan Services, Nairobi, Kenya.
Beatrice Amugune, School of Pharmacy, University of Nairobi, Nairobi, Kenya.
Naomi Anyango, Department of Mental Health, Ministry of Health, Kenya.
Darius Nyamai, Nairobi Metropolitan Services, Nairobi, Kenya.
Grace Nduku Wambua, Department of Clinical, Neuro and Developmental Psychology, Amsterdam Public Health Research Institute, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Bruce Chorpita, University of California, Los Angeles, United States of America.
Brandon A. Kohrt, Division of Global Mental Health, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, The George Washington University, Washington, District of Columbia, United States of America.
Jill W. Ahs, Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society, Karolinska Institutet, Solna, Sweden.
Priscilla Idele, UN Secretariat, New York, New York, United States of America.
Liliana Carvajal, Division of Data, Analytics, Planning and Monitoring, Data and Analytics Section, UNICEF, New York, New York, United States of America.
Manasi Kumar, Department of Psychiatry, University of Nairobi, Nairobi, Kenya.

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



PloS one








INTRODUCTION: There is paucity of culturally adapted tools for assessing depression and anxiety in children and adolescents in low-and middle-income countries. This hinders early detection, provision of appropriate and culturally acceptable interventions. In a partnership with the University of Nairobi, Nairobi County, Kenyatta National Hospital, and UNICEF, a rapid cultural adaptation of three adolescent mental health scales was done, i.e., Revised Children's Anxiety and Depression Scale, Patient Health Questionnaire-9 and additional scales in the UNICEF mental health module for adolescents. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Using a qualitative approach, we explored adolescent participants' views on cultural acceptability, comprehensibility, relevance, and completeness of specific items in these tools through an adolescent-centered approach to understand their psychosocial needs, focusing on gender and age-differentiated nuances around expression of distress. Forty-two adolescents and 20 caregivers participated in the study carried out in two primary care centers where we conducted cognitive interviews and focused group discussions assessing mental health knowledge, literacy, access to services, community, and family-level stigma. RESULTS: We reflect on process and findings of adaptations of the tools, including systematic identification of words adolescents did not understand in English and Kiswahili translations of these scales. Some translated words could not be understood and were not used in routine conversations. Response options were changed to increase comprehensibility; some statements were qualified by adding extra words to avoid ambiguity. Participants suggested alternative words that replaced difficult ones and arrived at culturally adapted tools. DISCUSSION: Study noted difficult words, phrases, dynamics in understanding words translated from one language to another, and differences in comprehension in adolescents ages 10-19 years. There is a critical need to consider cultural adaptation of depression and anxiety tools for adolescents. CONCLUSION: Results informed a set of culturally adapted scales. The process was community-driven and adhered to the principles of cultural adaptation for assessment tools.


Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences