National Academy of Medicine
Discussion Paper

Unleashing 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

Every day across America, behavioral health problems in childhood and adolescence, from anxiety to violence, take a heavy toll on millions of lives. For decades the approach to these problems has been to treat them only after they’ve been identified—at a high and ongoing cost to young people, families, entire communities, and our nation. Now we have a 30-year body of research and more than 50 programs showing that behavioral health problems can be prevented. This critical mass of prevention science is converging with growing interest in prevention across health care, education, child psychiatry, child welfare, and juvenile justice. Together, we stand at the threshold of a new age of prevention. The challenge now is to mobilize across disciplines and communities to unleash the power of prevention on a nationwide scale. We propose a grand challenge that will advance the policies, programs, funding, and workforce preparation needed to promote behavioral health and prevent behavioral health problems among all young people—including those at greatest disadvantage or risk, from birth through age 24. Within a decade, we can reduce the incidence and prevalence of behavioral health problems in this population by 20 percent from current levels through widespread policies and programs that will serve millions and save billions. Prevention is the best investment we can make, and the time to make it is now.

Note

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.