Population health: Hospitals target children’s mental health

care team

As part of an ongoing goal to improve population health, hospitals now offer more mental health and emotional wellness programs to children and teenagers.

For example, Children’s Hospital University of Illinois in Chicago developed a three-month program that includes counseling and weekly online classes to teach children and teens coping strategies to prevent them from developing depression, according to an article in U.S. News & World Report.

Participants hear stories about peers who dealt with the same issues--body image, social pressure and bullying among them--with emphasis placed on changing the negative thoughts that typically bring them down.

Benjamin Van Voorhees, M.D., physician-in-chief at Children's Hospital University of Illinois and who helped develop the program, told U.S. News that the creators consider it a “behavioral vaccine” for the children and teens who participate. "The goal is to identify people in the incipient stages," Van Voorhees said. "These coping skills can reprogram the brain and hopefully abort the development of full-blown depression."

Mental health issues--including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism spectrum disorders, behavioral health problems and eating disorders--are very prevalent in young children, according to the article. Indeed, it is the most common childhood affliction, more prevalent than cancer, diabetes and AIDS combined. Dealing with mental health issues in patients of all ages has long been a struggle for hospitals, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

Another approach is to include mental health screenings in primary care, according to U.S. News. Children’s National Health System and MedStar Georgetown University Hospital developed a program that offers screening tools and training to District of Columbia pediatricians. These doctors also have access via phone to child psychologists and social workers at hospitals to talk through questions on potentially serious cases. The program also helps families get needed referrals and sets up face-to-face sessions for children that need them.

- read the article