Did You Know?

Foster healthy body images

April 12, 2021

Eating disorders can be prevented. In particular, young people can learn how to combat messages promoting thin ideals, improve their body image and stop unhealthy weight control practices such as dieting. These approaches in turn can reduce eating disorder symptoms. For more information, see Vol. 9, No. 2 of the Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly


New ways to treat bipolar disorder in youth

April 5, 2021

Even though bipolar disorder is a long-term condition, it can be managed. Once a careful diagnosis is made, there are two effective approaches for young people. One is medications. Aripiprazole and lithium reduce symptoms and improve overall functioning, although both cause side effects. The other approach is psychosocial. Three new family-focused programs, used together with medications, also reduce symptoms and improve functioning. For more information, see Vol. 13, No. 1 of the Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly.


This week marks World Autism Awareness Day

March 29, 2021

Created by the United Nations General Assembly, World Autism Awareness Day occurs on April 2 every year. Autism spectrum disorder refers to a group of complex neurodevelopment disorders. They are characterized by repetitive patterns of behaviour and difficulties with social communication and interaction. The symptoms are present from early childhood. Recently, Children’s Health Policy Centre director Charlotte Waddell, has been co-author of a new study on Autism Spectrum Disorder.  See full text of the article and a link to the study here.

Provincial advisory committee provides crucial support

March 22, 2021

At the launch of the BC Healthy Connections Project in 2011, a Provincial Advisory Committee was immediately set up.

Why? The purpose of this important group of roughly 50 people was to gain expert practice and policy advice to help guide the scientific study — examining the effectiveness of the Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) program. Later, another purpose of the group was to provide an effective and efficient way of communicating trial updates and findings. And, today, this same group helps to guide the ongoing delivery of NFP, while awaiting trial results on exactly ‘how’ NFP works in BC (expected in 2021/2022).

“This group really gives us a sustained, active and reciprocal way to collaborate,” scientific director Nicole Catherine says noting that the team includes senior policymakers from BC government ministries such as Health, Children and Family Development, and Mental Health and Addictions as well as managers and directors from each of the four regional health authorities involved in the trial: Fraser, Interior, Island and Vancouver Coastal.

Other members in the group include representatives from the First Nations Health Authority, Métis Nation of BC, the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Provincial Health Services Authority, Perinatal Services BC, Child Health BC, and the BC Midwives Association.

While the group meets quarterly and has often gathered by phone (an especially useful principle during COVID), they held an in-person meeting in June 2015 where members gathered for what they called a “pre-mortem.”

“The idea was to make sure we could sustain the program and to boost its chances of success,” Catherine says. The object of the pre-mortem was to consider potential obstacles to the project and then develop ways to prevent them from occurring.

“Although the idea of a ‘pre-mortem’ might sound negative,” Catherine says, “it was actually the opposite. When you’re so focussed on succeeding, it’s easy to overlook small but important roadblocks. This exercise helped us avoid doing that.”

“For this, and for all the other work the committee has contributed, we are very grateful for the many people who have been so generous with their time to help ensure the success of this project,” Catherine says.

Practitioners need to prescribe with care

March 15, 2021

Researchers have uncovered some troubling trends in prescribing practices with young people. In BC and Manitoba, antipsychotics have commonly been prescribed for conditions such as ADHD — where these medications lack both research evidence and regulatory approval. To better support young people, antipsychotic prescribing should be limited to conditions for which there is good research evidence and regulatory approval, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. For more information, see Vol. 7, No. 4 of the Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly

Prevention investments can pay off

March 8, 2021

When problematic substance use is prevented, the benefits extend beyond helping young people and their families. Society also benefits, including financially. In particular, net benefits for effective skill-based programs were an estimated $160 to $1,850 dollars per youth. For more information, see Vol. 4, No. 2 of the Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly

Help youth with eating disorders

March 1, 2021

Eating disorders can be effectively treated. For youth with anorexia, Family Therapy is the first choice. For those with bulimia, both Family Therapy and Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) show positive results. And for those with binge-eating disorder, CBT is also highly effective. All young people with eating disorders should be easily able to receive these effective treatments. For more information, see Vol. 9, No. 3 of the Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly

Let’s acknowledge anti-bullying day

February 22, 2021

The original anti-bullying day was established in Canada in 2007 when two Nova Scotia teens bought and distributed 50 pink shirts after a male ninth grade student was bullied for wearing a pink shirt during the first day of school. The last Wednesday in February — this year, Feb. 24 — is now the national anti-bullying day in the country. A focus on self-regulation — including paying attention and inhibiting impulsivity — is crucial for healthy child development and a step in reducing bullying. Parents can promote this skill by being responsive to their children, providing positive feedback during challenging tasks, and supporting older children and teens to be more autonomous. For more information, see Vol. 10, No. 4 of the Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly

Research project is guided by steering committee

February 15, 2021

When the BC Healthy Connections Project announced its first results, via a paper in the Canadian Medical Association Journal Open, researchers were pleased.

The study had shown that the program being examined — Nurse-Family Partnership — reduced the number of cigarettes used by smokers during pregnancy and reduced prenatal cannabis use for all participants.

But, then, a nurse spoke to a member of the BCHCP steering committee. “Is this a good news story?” she asked.

“At first, this question took me aback,” says Nicole Catherine, Scientific Director of the project. “We knew it was a good news story — a positive result — but then we realized that the tone required by academic journal publication is so low key, that our communications needed to be refined for sharing with our policy and practitioner partners.”

Catherine says she was grateful to get this feedback thanks to the group’s steering committee, a seven-member board established in 2012 and involving a sustained and reciprocal research-policy-practice partnership.

Members include senior policymakers from the BC Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Children and Family Development and the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, as well as senior scientific team trial leaders.

At the start, the committee met every two weeks (via teleconference) addressing crucial issues such as study design, eligibility criteria and the interpretation of mixed trial findings from the Netherlands and England.

As the trial continued, meetings dropped to once monthly, providing advice on recruitment closing, data collection completion and communicating the positive prenatal trial findings.

Now, the group meets every two months, continuing to provide valuable advice and feedback as the scientific team continues with the primary outcome analysis, relating to reducing childhood injuries.

“We are very grateful to all members of the steering committee for their continued involvement in this important project,” Catherine says.

LGBTQ+ kids can thrive

February 8, 2021

Most LGBTQ+ youth successfully navigate adolescence and thrive as adults. Yet everyone around these young people can help create conditions that further ensure they flourish. For instance, schools can use gender-neutral language, model acceptance, be aware of LGBTQ+ issues and create positive environments. For more information, see Vol. 11, No. 2 of the Children’s Mental Health Research Quarterly.