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Canada Gairdner Global Health Symposium

by Gita Jaffe


CEThe 2019 Canada Gairdner Global Health Symposium was hosted by the Gairdner Foundation, Grand Challenges Canada, SickKids Centre for Global Child Health and Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) on October 23, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. The symposium’s theme, Community-based Health Interventions: From Global to Local highlighted speakers from around the world including: Vikram Patel (2018 Global Alliance Presidential Award Winner); Vandana Gopikumar founder of the Banyan and the Banyan Academy of Leadership in Mental Health; Vicky Stegiopoulos the Physician-in-Chief at CAMH who focusses on the development and evaluation of interventions to address the needs of people who are homeless (including mental health); Abhijit Nadkarni an addictions psychiatrist and global mental health researcher who focusses on developing and evaluating interventions for alcohol use disorders in low resource settings; Takeesha White, Founding Director of the Friendship Benches NYC, Renee Linklater the Director of Shkaabe Makwa, a program that supports First Nations, Inuit and Métis wellness at CAMH and Daisy Singla, one of the youngest winners of a study from the Patient Centred Outcome Research Institute (PCORI) focussing on scaling up evidence-based psychological treatments to enrich the lives of women and their families worldwide. The speakers identified personal pathways towards their current professional efforts.

The various research and programs discussed demonstrated approaches to tackling existing gaps in- and barriers to- behavioral health and wellbeing. Below are a few concepts that were discussed among the panelists:

  • The interface of professional identity with action (locally and abroad) and understanding the opportunity for synergies between action and academy. As barriers to success were discussed around the globe, the consistent understanding was that every country needs to address gaps in achieving wellbeing.
  • The shared goal among stakeholders interested in mental health (and arguably any issue) is critical to finding solutions and encouraging action. Despite differences in approach and opinion, the opportunity to collaborate on a shared vision (wellbeing) is central. 
  • In understanding that increasing access to behavioral health services globally must include non-specialist mental health care, emphasis on cultural context and cross-cultural relevance is required. The engagement of civil society is critical to progress. Finally, solutions are found where policy, culture, practice and academy intersect.

Get Youth and Families Involved

by Deborah Klein Walker

[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.]


In the last ten year, the evidence-base about the influences of mental, emotional and behavioral (MEB) development has expanded greatly (see report Fostering Healthy Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Development in Children and Youth: A National Agenda). Despite this, the United States has not fully acted on the information, which has resulted in an increasing number of children and youth with MEB challenges. Currently, 31.9% of children and youth have anxiety; 19.1% have behavioral disorders; 14.3% have depression and 11.4% have substance disorders. Suicide is the second most common cause of death for youth, ages 15 to 24 years, and the third most common for youth, ages 10-14 years.

MEBFamilies and youth must be involved in designing the dissemination strategies for their communities and states to educate the public about MEB development and the major investments needed for MEB promotion, prevention, treatment and maintenance. The leadership of organizations such as the Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health and Family Voices must be engaged continuously to work with families and youth in designing effective strategies. Similarly, Youth MOVE National, an independent organization of youth leaders across the country, should be engaged in developing programs and policies that affect them. All of these organizations have “chapters” in most of the states that foster family and youth engagement at the local and state levels. Working together, we can create the political will and design social strategies for an agenda to improve MEB health. Unless families and youth are engaged in the process, these efforts will not be effective.

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

by Deborah Klein Walker


 [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.

MEBMoreover, 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.

New NASEM Report Presents Opportunity to Improve MEB in Children and Youth

by Deborah Klein Walker


[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 Global Alliance is a sponsor of the Forum for Children’s Well-being, an activity of the Board on Children, Youth and Families of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.  Last week, the Forum met to discuss dissemination strategies for the new consensus study report -- Fostering Healthy Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Development in Children and Youth: A National Agenda. This report, which follows the 2009 consensus study (Preventing Mental, Emotional and Behavioral Disorders Among Young People) presents more evidence for programs and policies that promote mental, emotional and behavioral (MEB) development and prevent MEB disorders. It is important to note that the first consensus report (Reducing Risks of Mental Disorder) published 25 years ago in 1994 did not discuss promotion of MEB health and had very little discussion of prevention of MEB disorders. Although much still needs to be done to assure full implementation of treatment and maintenance of MEB disorders, the emerging evidence for promotion and prevention interventions is especially encouraging.

MEBThe report “urges the creation of a broad-based effort to improve MEB health for children and youth, organized under the rubric Decade of Children and Youth, led by the Department of Health and Human Services. The initiative would build awareness of the social and economic gains associated with healthy child development and engage multiple sectors of society in working toward the goal.” How can this effort be supported by individuals, families, communities, states, faith-based organizations, private businesses, and others to assure that it is successful? The time has come to invest in evidence-based solutions to improve MEB health for children and youth.