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Public Health Approach

A Public Health Approach to Children's Mental Health: A Conceptual Framework

A number of recent developments have begun pointing the way toward a new approach to children’s mental health in the United States. Hope for a new approach is inspired by successful examples of public health efforts in the area of children’s physical health, increased recognition of the positive impact of System of Care values, and greater understanding of the ways healthy environments can enhance children’s development.



Public health principles suggest that the new approach should focus on:

  • reducing mental health problems among children for whom a problem has been identified and
  • helping all children optimize their mental health.

This monograph advances an approach to children’s mental health that applies public health concepts to efforts that support children’s mental health and development. The approach is presented in a conceptual framework comprised of three major elements:

  • values that underlie the entire effort, guiding principles that steer the work,
  • a process that consists of three core public health action steps/functions, and
  • a new model of intervening that provides the range of intervention activities required to implement a comprehensive approach.

The range of intervention activities includes:

  • promoting positive mental health,
  • preventing mental health problems,
  • treating mental health problems, and
  • re/claiming optimal health while addressing a mental health problem.

This monograph is written for a broad range of leaders who have a role in bringing about change in their system(s) or organizations and influencing children’s mental health and wellbeing. These leaders may be in federal, state, local program, or policy roles. They may be state, tribal, or regional capacity builders, community providers or volunteers, or consumers or family members. They may be part of systems or sectors that impact the well-being of children, including children’s mental health care, public health, juvenile justice, education, maternal and child health, physical health care, early care/education, child welfare, housing, transportation, and community development.

Click here for more information about Public Health Approach efforts at the TA Center

Click here for resource information about Public Health Approach efforts at the TA Center, including the following document:

Journal Article: Advancing Efforts to Improve Children’s Mental Health in America: A Commentary by Gary Blau, Larke N. Huang, and Coretta J. Mallery (March 2010)

Public Health Committee

For information about collaborative efforts in the area of public health at the TA Center, please visit our NASMHPD Public Health Committee “Corner”. Here you will find information about our partnership with the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors Public Health Committee.


For more information about public health approach activities within the TA Center, please contact Neal Horen at 202-687-5443.