Humanitarian Interventions

Boaz Feldman, in collaboration with the University of Yale, Department of Anthropology, is currently innovating processes of psychosocial (PS) evaluations with a range of psychobiological tools for PS humanitarian interventions. This will enable a systematic and precise appraisal of the impact for the beneficiaries, as well as the beneficiaries which the trained staff will be serving.


2015: AHEAD Afghanistan

AHEAD (Health and Education for Autonomous Development) is a psychosocial intervention due to begin in 2015, with the collaboration of Dr. Catherine Panter-Brick. She has extensive experience on child and adolescent health (Panter-Brick et al., 2011) (Panter-Brick et al., 2013), including elaborate studies performed on violence and mental health in Afghanistan (Panter-Brick et al., 2009).

Along similar lines, the clinical dimension to AHEAD project will be provided by a biological stress assessment of trained individuals. In a survey study using a set of biomarkers and physiological parameters such blood pressure, BMI etc.), Panter-Brick et al. was able to demonstrate the prevalence of stress and mental health in young urban Afghans (Panter-Brick et al., 2008). In the context of the AHEAD project, hair and blood samples will be collected with culturally acceptable means.

The assessment methodology will be based on measuring the levels of cortisol (stress hormone) per centimetre of hair strand to find a correlation between the effects of the ‘mindfulness’ training on the individuals and the amount of cortisol detected in the hair sample at different intervals of study.


“Hair cortisol concentrations
(HCC) are assumed to provide a
retrospective reflection of integrated cortisol
secretion over periods of several months.

Over the past years, supportive evidence has accumulated regarding several fundamental characteristics of HCC, including its validity as an index of long-term systemic cortisol levels, its reliability across repeated assessments and its relative robustness to a range of potential confounding influences.”

Stalder, Kirschbaum (2012). Analysis of cortisol in hair – State of the art and future directions. Brain Behav. Immun.


Panter-Brick C, Goodman A, Tol W, Eggerman M (2011). Mental health and childhood adversities: A longitudinal study in Kabul, Afghanistan. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. 50(4): 349-363.
Panter-Brick C, Grimon M, and Eggerman M (2013). Caregiver-child mental health: A prospective study in conflict and refugee settings. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. (Epub ahead of print). doi: 10.1111/jcpp.12167
Panter-Brick C, Eggerman M, Gonzalez V, Safdar S (2009). Ongoing violence, social suffering and mental health: A school-based survey in Afghanistan. The Lancet. 374: 807-16.



2015: CARE Myanmar

In collaboration with Intersos, the CARE (Community Awareness, Resilience and Empowerment) Program will train trainers in bio-psychosocial support (BPSS) and counselling methodologies starting in 2015. A stress bio-marker research will be carried out in two phases, with two separate populations and their respective control groups.


  1. Bio-marker stress reduction research on BPSS trainees – 6 months.
  2. Bio-marker stress reduction research on counselling trainees – 6 months.

Respecting IASC (Inter-Agency Standing Committee) norms and conventions on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergencies, CARE will not be conducting any research on IDP’s. Their situation is already difficult as it is in the UNHCR IDP camps, and our aim is to support them in any way possible.