Substance Use Disorders: Partnering to make a difference – The HIFA Project

A South African study examining treatment barriers among young adults living with substance use disorders in Tshwane noted that limited or scarce information about available treatment options remains a persistent reason why individuals do not seek treatment (Nyashanu & Visser, 2022). The absence of readily available, reliable healthcare information, misinformation, and stigma continue to contribute to the rising number of substance use disorders. These factors prevent people from seeking treatment, make it difficult for them to access effective healthcare, and make them more likely to experience negative consequences from their substance use, such as overdose. We must increase access and awareness of treatment options to address this issue.

At the Ulrich and Ruth Frank Foundation for International Health (Frank Foundation), we remain committed to promoting research, education, and collaboration in substance abuse to contribute to developing policies and resources to improve the quality and accessibility of addiction education and training. To strengthen health systems through education, we have partnered with Healthcare Information For All (HIFA), a global social movement working to improve the availability and use of healthcare information in low- and middle-income countries. In part sponsorship by and the Frank Foundation, HIFA recently launched a new project titled “Mental Health: Meeting Information Needs for Substance Use Disorders, promoting universal access to reliable healthcare information to prevent and manage substance use.” As the global coordinator of the HIFA campaign and co-director of the Global Healthcare Information Network, Dr. Neil Pakenham-Walsh, MBBS, is committed to improving access to healthcare information. He is particularly interested in understanding and meeting the information and learning needs of citizens, health workers, and policymakers in low- and middle-income countries. This commitment to bridge the gap is embodied in the core mission of the HIFA campaign.


It is paramount to meet the information needs of stakeholders involved in addressing substance use and to ensure that people have the information they need to make informed healthcare decisions. To help bridge this gap, HIFA plans to run a series of thematic discussions over the next 12 months on the HIFA forums, where 20,000 members will explore and assess information and learning needs of the general public, health workers, and policymakers on, successively, 1. tobacco, 2. alcohol, and 3. opiate addiction. This includes information on the types of disorders, how to identify them, and how to manage, treat and prevent them in a healthcare setting. Addressing information needs is fundamental to ensure that patients and physicians have access to the latest treatments and resources and promote public awareness and understanding of substance use disorders and mental health.

As one of the Fellows on board with this project, Dr. Monthe Kofos, D.O., along with Dr. Frank MD, MPH, FAACME, inventor/founder of and CEO, Mrs. Miriam Chickering, RN, BSN, NE-BC, have been working closely with HIFA coordinator Dr. Pakenham-Walsh and other representatives over the last couple months. Other members of the Working Group include Dr. Abhijit Nadkarni, an Addiction Psychiatrist and Global Mental Health Researcher in India; Chris Bostic, Action on Smoking and Health’s Policy Director and former Public Health Law clinical instructor; Dr. Eduardo Bianco of Uruguay, a Cardiologist, Certified Tobacco Cessation Expert and Chair of the World Heart Federation Tobacco Expert Group; Didier Demassosso of Cameroon, a clinical psychologist in Cameroon, and mental health advocate; Dr. Sian Williams, an HCPC-registered Counselling Psychologist and Executive Officer at the International Primary Care Respiratory Group in the UK; and members of the Frank Foundation’s Addiction Training for Health Professionals Fellows Program – Dr. Diana Nguyen, Dr. Kimberly Evans, and Dr. Jenna Butner of the USA.

They have been working on finalizing the scope and objectives and assisting in coordinating the project. Dr. Kofos noted that this project represents an invaluable opportunity to improve access to addiction information and to “foster new relationships and strengthen existing ones.” He strongly believes that this project will offer both medical and non-medical personnel the chance to address or correct misconceptions by allowing them to ask specific and pertinent questions in real-time. This project provides a platform for open dialogue and collaboration by creating a safe space for people to share their experiences and find common ground. Ultimately, the information shared will help enable medical and non-medical personnel to work together to ensure that the best care is provided for all patients.

While we recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to addiction, we firmly believe that by increasing awareness and education, we can help make a difference in the prevention and management of substance abuse by prioritizing it as an essential public health issue. Follow us to learn how we are making strides in addressing substance abuse and mental health!

We invite everyone with interest to join the global conversation here (English, French, Portuguese, Spanish): 

For more information: 

Reisha Narine, Glenda Niles, and Neil Pakenham-Walsh