For measuring children’s mental health, we need high-quality epidemiological data

May 3, 2021

Recommendations for public health surveillance relating to children’s mental health was the topic for Charlotte Waddell, the director of the Children’s Health Policy Centre, in speaking to students at the UBC School of Population and Public Health.

In her one-hour March 24, 2021 presentation, Waddell addressed the huge value of high-quality epidemiological studies, which give the most robust data on how well children are doing. These studies are robust because they tell us about all children, not just those who obtain services, or who sign up for studies.

What policymakers may do in the absence of such data, Waddell said, is rely on administrative data, such as records of physician visits. “The problem,” Waddell said, “is that most children with mental health problems don’t get any services at all so their needs are essentially unknown.” As well, families with greater economic means, may end up seeing private practitioners such as psychologists, but those data are not captured either.

The workshop suggested approaches for identifying and using high-quality epidemiological data to measure children’s mental health, worked through some case studies and included a lively question and answer session.