A national coalition of experts that includes two University of Washington researchers has a bold plan to reduce behavioral health problems such as violence and depression among young people across the country by 20 percent in a decade.
And their proposal rests on one simple principle: prevention.
The group’s paper, recently published on the National Academy of Medicine website, recommends implementing evidence-based prevention programs on a national scale to reduce a host of problems ranging from drinking to delinquent behavior, anxiety and risky driving. It notes that treatment, lost productivity and crime related to behavioral health problems among young people cost an estimated $247 billion a year.
Lead author David Hawkins, founding director of the Social Development Research Group, an organization within the UW School of Social Work, said the typical approach to addressing behavioral health problems among young people has been to step in only after they take hold.
“So much of what we do is to wait until there are big problems, then we start intervening,” he said. “As consumers of programs that are costing public money, we need to ask, ‘What’s the scientific evidence that this works?’”
Hawkins has seen that evidence firsthand. Communities That Care, the community-level prevention system developed by Hawkins and Social Development Research Group co-founder Richard Catalano, a co-author on the paper, has been shown to cut smoking and alcohol use among young people by more than 30 percent, and overall juvenile crime by 25 percent. The paper highlights other prevention initiatives that have helped prevent sexual behavior, self-injury, anxiety, unwanted pregnancy, violence and other youth problems.
Read the full story at UW Today