• By Dartington SRU
  • Posted on Thursday 26th March, 2009

Boat carries prevention to the top

The benefits of screening and the need for more primary investigation into the causes of childhood disorders featured strongly in yesterday’s internet conference called by the US National Academies to argue the case for a White House Cabinet response to its prevention recommendations. Authors of the landmark US National Academies report Preventing Mental, Emotional and Behavioral Disorders Among Young People took part, and other leading US thinkers and practitioners offered commentary The role of communities and children’s services systems in promoting and integrating effective prevention practice was another recurring theme.Evelyn Yang, Acting Director of Research for Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America noted that “health prevention happens at the local level.” Judy Nuss, Director of Social and Emotional Learning in the Harrisburg School District in Pennsylvania, drew attention to the role of schools: “Without mental well-being in our schools for students and staff, all other learning is at risk,” she said, later calling for prevention efforts to become a normal element of schooling alongside math and reading.Teresa LaFromboise from the School of Education at Stanford University and a member of the committee drafting the National Academies report talked about the need to ally the results of science with the beliefs, attitudes and norms of communities. Of her experiences of working with American Indians she said, “People need a voice when implementing programs. Fully involved they can be the best advocates for prevention.”Dalene Dutton, Executive Director of Five Town Communities that Care in Rockport, Maine, described how his organization is connecting local people to the what works evidence base. “Communities that Care gives us a structure to bring together diverse people to work together for community goals”. He gave examples of how the program had facilitated the introduction of prevention programs across the US during the last decade.William Beardslee, Professor of Child Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and a member of the drafting committee, noted how durable the definition of prevention that emerged from the National Academies work in the mid 1990s had proved. “It has acted as a platform for the advancement of the field. The perspective we are now taking is developmental, aiming to increase protective factors and decrease risks. The quest is now to discover the mechanisms that lead to healthy development.”Beardslee also called for improved knowledge about how to implement effective prevention. “In 1994 we had some efficacy studies. In 2009 we have many efficacy studies and some effectiveness studies. The challenge is to make evidence based programs work in city, state and even national systems.”Ultimately, the Washington gathering was a call for action. Thomas Boat from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and Vice Chair of the National Academies committee called for the prevention of mental, emotional and behavioral disorders to become a national priority. “This has got to be near the top of the list, if not at the top of the list. Efforts are needed at the highest level in this country. We need action at the White House cabinet level.”Prevention Action conclude coverage of the National Academies report tomorrow with commentary from international leaders in prevention science.

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