Director named to McMaster University Alumni Gallery

December 15, 2020

Charlotte Waddell, the director of the Children’s Health Policy Centre, has been honoured as a member of McMaster University’s Alumni Gallery.

The Gallery currently includes the biographies and photographs of 427 interesting McMaster graduates who have made significant contributions to society on a local, national or global level. Members of the Gallery include the former Lieutenant Governor of Ontario Honourable Lincoln Alexander, actor Martin Short, and astronaut Roberta Bondar.

Waddell earned her MD from McMaster where she completed residencies in Family Medicine and Psychiatry. She also undertook a research fellowship at McMaster’s Offord Centre for Child Studies before becoming an assistant professor with the Centre. From there she moved to UBC for six years until she was recruited by SFU to take up the Canada Research Chair in Children’s Health Policy, Tier 2, and to launch the Children’s Health Policy Centre in 2006.

Her story can be seen on the McMaster website.


What public data sources can help us monitor children’s mental health in BC?

December 10, 2020

Improving the mental health of children in BC requires monitoring across all age groups — from infancy through late adolescence — to assess public investments aimed at better meeting children’s needs.

How to achieve this goal comprehensively was the subject of a report prepared by the Children’s Health Policy Centre (CHPC) at the request of the Child and Youth Mental Health Policy Branch of the BC Ministry of Children and Family Development. The BC Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions cosponsored the project.

The CHPC conducted an audit of possible data sources with potential application in BC, applying a population health framework to ensure comprehensiveness. The report examined 25 sources, identifying two types that — if used in aggregate —offer potential for ongoing monitoring. They are:

  1. For assessing determinants and status: Canada Census and BC Education data (determinants; covering all ages); Early and Middle Years Development Instruments (status; covering younger and middle school-age children only); and Canadian Community Health, Health Behaviour in School-Age Children and McCreary Adolescent Health Surveys (status; covering adolescents only); and
  2. For assessing interventions and services: MCFD’s Brief Child and Family Phone Interview (BCFPI) combined with BC Medical Services Plan (MSP) diagnoses from fee-for-service practitioners (mental healthcare encounters; covering all ages).

Yet each of these sources has limitations. For example, the BCFPI and MSP only cover those children who access services. And we know from high-quality epidemiological studies that the majority (56%) of children with mental disorders do not receive any services for these conditions.

So it is crucial to use population-based public data sources (such as #1 above) in combination with “clinical” sources (such as #2 above). And most importantly, public data sources should always be normed against epidemiological studies — which give the most accurate depiction of how many children need assistance.

For more information and to review the entire report, see here.

Report suggests interventions for childhood mental disorders

November 23, 2020

Mental health, or social and emotional wellbeing, is crucial for all children. But in BC, high-quality epidemiological studies show that nearly 95,000 children aged four to 18 years— or an estimated 12.7% — will experience mental disorders.

All children with mental disorders require effective treatments, and many additional children would benefit from effective prevention programs. To inform policymakers about how to address these needs, the Children’s Health Policy Centre has prepared a research report for the BC Ministry of Children and Family Development.

This report summarizes the best available research evidence on effective interventions for preventing and treating 12 of the most common mental disorders (or groups of disorders) affecting children. These include:

  1. anxiety disorders
  2. attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  3. oppositional defiant disorder
  4. conduct disorders
  5. substance use disorders (SUDs)
  6. depression
  7. autism spectrum disorder
  8. obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  9. bipolar disorder
  10. eating disorders
  11. posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and
  12. schizophrenia

The report identifies effective prevention interventions for eight of these disorders and effective treatments for all 12.

To view the entire report, please see here.


Increased mental health struggles will result from COVID-19

November 12, 2020

COVID-19 will have significant mental health consequences for B.C. children and youth, according to a report authored by the Children’s Health Policy Centre and released Nov. 12/20.

The report concludes that the pandemic creates a critical need for government to invest in B.C.’s over-stretched and underfunded child and youth mental health services system.

Sponsored by the BC Office of the Representative for Children and Youth, the report reviews several studies on mental health outcomes for children and youth after earlier pandemics and natural disasters. This research identifies the mental health challenges children and youth can be expected to experience during and after COVID-19, including anxiety, post-traumatic stress, depression and behavioural problems.

The report indicates that because untreated mental health problems can persist, even extending into adulthood if left untreated, supports for children and youth will significantly reduce future costs.

The report also finds that some children and youth may be disproportionately affected, including those with neuro-diverse needs, pre-existing mental health conditions, youth in foster care and those affected by adversities such as socioeconomic disadvantage and racism. It also finds that COVID-19 may particularly affect Indigenous peoples, who disproportionately experience harms related to colonialism such as unsafe housing, lack of access to clean water and extreme food insecurity – conditions that the report recognizes as putting children’s mental health at risk.

“This report underlines the importance of addressing mental health issues in the early stages,” says Representative for Children and Youth Jennifer Charlesworth. “The data indicates that children do well when their communities have more socioeconomic resources… Clearly, community and family health play significant roles in child and youth mental health, and that is what we need to be supporting.”

Families who were in more precarious economic situations before COVID-19 are now facing many added difficulties, according to Charlotte Waddell, director of the Children’s Health Policy Centre and the lead author of the report.

“We found that children who experience socioeconomic inequalities are much more likely to develop emotional and behavioural concerns,” says Waddell. “The pandemic has the potential to amplify inequalities – in turn putting less advantaged children at even greater risk for mental health concerns.”

The full report may be found here.