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New Individually-Authored Perspectives

Unleashing the Power of Prevention


Authors: J. David Hawkins, Jeffrey M. Jenson, Richard Catalano, Mark W. Fraser, Gilbert J. Botvin, Valerie Shapiro, C. Hendricks Brown, William Beardslee, David Brent, Laurel K. Leslie, Mary Jane Rotheram-Borus, Pat Shea, Andy Shih, Elizabeth Anthony, Kevin P. Haggerty, Kimberly Bender, Deborah Gorman-Smith, Erin Casey, and Susan Stone

Every day across America, behavioral health problems in childhood and adolescence, from anxiety to violence, take a heavy toll on millions of lives. For decades the approach to these problems has been to treat them only after they’ve been identified—at a high and ongoing cost to young people, families, entire communities, and our nation. Now we have a 30-year body of research and more than 50 programs showing that behavioral health problems can be prevented. This critical mass of prevention science is converging with growing interest in prevention across health care, education, child psychiatry, child welfare, and juvenile justice. Together, we stand at the threshold of a new age of prevention. The challenge now is to mobilize across disciplines and communities to unleash the power of prevention on a nationwide scale. We propose a grand challenge that will advance the policies, programs, funding, and workforce preparation needed to promote behavioral health and prevent behavioral health problems among all young people—including those at greatest disadvantage or risk, from birth through age 24. Within a decade, we can reduce the incidence and prevalence of behavioral health problems in this population by 20 percent from current levels through widespread policies and programs that will serve millions and save billions. Prevention is the best investment we can make, and the time to make it is now.
 
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A Challenge to Unleash the Power of Prevention


Authors: J. David Hawkins, Jeffrey M. Jenson, Richard Catalano, Mark W. Fraser, Gilbert J. Botvin, Valerie Shapiro, C. Hendricks Brown, William Beardslee, David Brent, Laurel K. Leslie, Mary Jane Rotheram-Borus, Pat Shea, Andy Shih, Elizabeth Anthony, Kevin P. Haggerty, Kimberly Bender, Deborah Gorman-Smith, Erin Casey, and Susan Stone

Prevention is the best investment we can make in behavioral health—and the time to make it is now. Every day, across America, behavioral health problems in childhood and adoles-cence take a heavy toll on millions of lives. These problems cause deep, often long-term damage to young people, families, schools, and communities. They erode the social con-tract that one generation makes with another to equip its young people for a bright future.Behavioral health problems range widely from anxiety and depression to alcohol, tobacco, and drug abuse; delinquent and violent behavior; dropping out of school; and risky sexual activity and unwanted pregnancies. Behavioral health is defined so broadly because many of these problems share risk factors and solutions. Preventing one problem often reduces another, or several others. For decades, the approach to behavioral health problems was to treat them one at a time and only after they were identified—at a high and ongoing price. The cost of treat-ment services and lost productivity attribut-ed to depression, conduct disorder, and sub-stance abuse alone are estimated at $247 bil-lion per year. Other losses—in lifetimes of compromised potential, the fraying of our social fabric, and the diminishment of our nation’s future—are incalculable. 
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The Institute of Medicine hosts Perspectives to provide leading experts with the opportunity to offer their observations and opinions on innovations and challenges in health and health care. These individually-authored perspectives are not reports of the IOM or the National Research Council and therefore are not subject to their review processes.
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