Nurturing Healthier Kids Through Prevention
Last month, the St. Louis County Children's Service Fund (CSF) partnered with the St. Louis Mental Health Board and the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis to sponsor a day-long symposium on effective strategies for preventing behavioral health problems in youth.  

The day provided a unique opportunity to learn from Dr. J. David Hawkins, an internationally recognized expert in prevention science and community prevention strategies, about policies and evidence-based programs that have been shown to reduce behavioral health problems in children and youth. In addition, local service providers and system leaders shared their perspectives on prevention strategies and how evidence-based prevention was making a real difference in the resiliency of children and the community. The symposium was designed to spark a community dialogue and strengthen services available to children and youth.

Children's behavioral health is a central component to health policy and is critical to preventing future health problems. In fact, only 50% of health outcomes are determined by health behaviors, genetics, and access to quality medical care. The other 50% of health outcomes can be attributed to behavioral health problems.

Nearly half of all teens experience one of more behavioral health problem while over one in five have severe impairment. To prevent a problem before it happens, the predictors must be addressed. Through research, risk and protective factors have been identified. Protective factors predict decreased behavioral health problems even in the presence of risk. It is critical that at every level, the community works together to strengthen these while mitigating risk factors in children, youth, and their families.

Adopting and fully implementing evidence-based, best, and promising practices requires a significant commitment of time, energy, and financial resources, and often requires continuous training and technical assistance over a substantial period of time in order to demonstrate and assure fidelity. However, In St. Louis, the community is fortunate to have two children's service funds that are already investing in quality evidence-based programs.

Dr. Jerry Dunn from Children’s Advocacy Center, Dr. Karen Guskin from Wyman, Dr. Faisal Khan from St. Louis County Department of Public Health, and Joe Yancey from Places for People all spoke to the crowd about the positive outcomes of their evidence-based programming.

Investing in behavioral health prevention, early identification, treatment, and ongoing integrated care is not only a smart health, social, and economic choice, it's CSF's mission. Together, let's strengthen services that are child-centered and family-guided and support prevention and early intervention efforts that target factors linked to the development of behavioral health concerns.