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Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2010 Sep;45(9):899-910. doi: 10.1007/s00127-009-0128-z. Epub 2009 Aug 26.

Community-based cross-cultural adaptation of mental health measures in emergency settings: validating the IES-R and HSCL-37A in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

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  • 1Department of Orthopedagogics, Ghent University, Henri Dunantlaan 2, 9000 Ghent, Belgium.



This study aims at providing qualitative and quantitative evidence on the relevance of two broadly used mental health self-report measures--Impact of Event Scale Revised (IES-R) and Hopkins Symptom Checklist 37 for Adolescents (HSCL-37A)--for use in Eastern Democratic of Congo, as no psychological assessment instruments were available for this region. We therefore describe an apt procedure to adapt and translate standard screening instruments in close collaboration with the local community, feasible under challenging conditions in emergency settings.


Focus groups and interviews with community key figures in psychosocial care were employed to ensure local validity of the adaptation and translation process. Consequently, the questionnaires' internal consistency (Cronbach's alpha) and construct validity (principal component analysis, testing of theoretical assumptions) were assessed based on a clustered school-based community survey among 1,046 adolescents (13-21 years) involving 13 secondary schools in the Ituri district in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.


Key-informant qualitative data confirmed face and construct validity of all IES-R and all HSCL-37A anxiety items. Additional culture-specific symptoms of adolescent mental ill-health were added to enhance local relevance of the HSCL-37A depression and externalizing subscales. Quantitative analysis of the survey data revealed adequate internal consistency and construct validity of both adapted measures, yet weaker results for the externalizing scale. Furthermore, it confirmed the internalizing/externalizing factor structure of the HSCL-37A and the theoretically deviating intrusion/arousal versus active avoidance factor structure for the IES-R.


Community-based adaptation can extend the validity and local relevance of mental health screening in emergency and low-income settings. The availability of adequate Swahili and Congolese French adaptations of the IES-R and HSCL-37A could stimulate the assessment of psychosocial needs in war-exposed Eastern Congolese adolescents.

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