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What is Needed to Promote MEB Health of Children and Youth?

October 24, 2019

Recently, Deborah Klein Walker, the Immediate Past President of the Global Alliance and a member of the Forum For Children’s Well-Being, participated in a workshop to discuss dissemination strategies for the newly released report, State of Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Health (MEB) of Children and Youth in the United States.

The promotion of mental, emotional and behavioral (MEB) health for children and youth requires action on multiple fronts in multiple sectors (e.g., education, healthcare, childcare, etc.). No “one single bullet” will work. Rather, it will take a sustained effort of program and policy interventions combined with public education to achieve the goals and vision laid out in the new consensus study report, entitled Fostering Healthy Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Development in Children and Youth: A National Agenda. According to the report, a coordinated effort will require (1) active engagement of all stakeholders, (2) a well-trained workforce, (3) engaged leadership in organizations delivering the interventions, (4) strong community coalitions, and (5) a data monitoring system. The monitoring system to track the quality and outcomes of implementation efforts, as well as barriers and facilitators to successful implementation, will be the most challenging since there currently is no MEB system that provides data at the local, state and national levels.

Moreover, the recommendation to implement a public education campaign to combat stigma and promote MEB health in children and youth will require large investments of public and private dollars to develop and maintain. As we learned in the tobacco control and prevention work in the 1990s and beyond, media campaigns are instrumental to changing attitudes and behavior, but extremely expensive to implement at the level needed to “move the needle” on public opinion. Let’s hope we can generate the resources for a major public campaign that will create the political will to invest in promotion of MEB health for children and youth.

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