National Academy of Medicine

A Challenge to Unleash the Power of Prevention

By 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*
June 22, 2015 | Commentary

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 adolescence 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 treatment services and lost productivity attributed to depression, conduct disorder, and sub-stance abuse alone are estimated at $247 billion 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.



Suggested Citation

Hawkins, J. D., J. M. Jenson, R. Catalano, M. W. Fraser, G. J. Botvin, V. Shapiro, C. H. Brown, W. Beardslee, D. Brent, L. K. Leslie, M. J. Rotheram-Borus, P. Shea, A. Shih, E. Anthony, K . P. Haggerty, K. Bender, D. Gorman-Smith, E. Casey, and S. Stone. 2015. A Challenge to Unleash the Power of Prevention. NAM Perspectives. Commentary, National Academy of Medicine, Washington, DC. doi: 10.31478/201506b


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and not necessarily of the authors’ organizations, the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), or the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (the National Academies). The paper is intended to help inform and stimulate discussion. It is not a report of the NAM or the National Academies. Copyright by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.