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

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 adoles-cence 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 vio-lent 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 prob-lem 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 treat-ment services and lost productivity attribut-ed 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.


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this Perspective 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 Academies). The Perspective is intended to help inform and stimulate discussion. It has not been subjected to the review procedures of, nor is it a report of, the NAM or the Academies. Copyright by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.