Coalition for the Promotion of Behavioral Health and Prevention of Negative Developmental Outcomes
Scope and Nature of the Problem
Due to the success of concerted worldwide efforts to combat infectious disease and invest in child health, more children are surviving through adolescence and into adulthood. As a result, the worldwide emphasis on promoting health among young people has shifted to addressing behavioral health problems or negative developmental outcomes. These include mental health difficulties such as anxiety and depression, self-inflicted injury, obesity, risky sexual behaviors, risky driving, and alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use. Negative developmental outcomes also include delinquent behavior, violence, aggression, bullying, and school dropout. The adverse effects of negative developmental outcomes appear during childhood and adolescence, and also impact rates of adult morbidity and mortality. Negative developmental outcomes are preventable, and preventing them in childhood and adolescence is likely to increase behavioral health and reduce mortality and morbidity across the lifespan.
Promoting behavioral health to achieve fully prepared citizens (people who are healthy, well-educated, civically involved, and respectful of diversity) and preventing negative developmental outcomes hold promise for improving the well-being of young people throughout the world.
Current evidence suggests that social work is well positioned to: 1) implement, at scale, effective universal health promotion and prevention strategies designed to benefit all young people; and 2) provide, at scale, effective selective interventions in the context of the risks commonly experienced by children, adolescents, and young adults.
Scientific Evidence and Progress
Scientific evidence suggests that the challenge of promoting behavioral health and preventing negative developmental outcomes from birth through age 24 is achievable:
o Knowledge of the predictors of positive behavioral health and of risk and protective factors for negative outcomes has increased exponentially.
o There is sufficient evidence to suggest that preventive interventions can promote behavioral health and prevent negative developmental outcomes.
o Effective preventive interventions are cost-beneficial.
o Young people with the highest levels of risk benefit the most from preventive interventions. To promote health equity across diverse populations, promotion and prevention efforts must reach disadvantaged populations.
Meaningful and Measurable Progress
Progress in promoting behavioral health and preventing negative developmental outcomes from birth to age 24 can be made in a decade. Indicators of success include: 1) reductions in infant mortality, child abuse, and neglect; 2) reductions in negative developmental outcomes including anxiety and depression, self-inflicted injury, obesity, risky sexual behaviors, risky driving, alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use, delinquent behavior, violence, aggression, bullying, and school dropout; and 3) improvements in school-related outcomes.
The challenge of promoting behavioral health and preventing negative developmental outcomes will require practitioners and scientists to work together to design practicable, scalable, and sustainable pro motive and preventive solutions. Business, media, and communication entities will be enlisted to disseminate promotion/prevention programs and policies.
Solutions to the challenge of promoting behavioral health and preventing negative developmental outcomes will require innovative technology and communication strategies, assembly of funding streams, and approaches that link promotion/prevention to related problems, social and human services, and populations.