Children’s mental health: Linking research evidence and policy making

How can we ensure that public policies in children's mental health reflect the best available research evidence about what works to help children. This is the research focus for Dr. Charlotte Waddell, who is exploring ways to strengthen the links between new research knowledge and policy making. At any given time, up to 20 per cent of children experience mental health problems that affect their emotions, learning and behaviour, and interfere with their development. This creates a large burden of suffering for these children, their families and their communities. However, there are often few links between the realms of research evidence and policy making in children's mental health: research evidence is often poorly communicated to policy makers, and policy makers often make decisions that contradict the best available research evidence. Dr. Waddell is investigating the respective needs and working cultures of researchers and policy makers, and will suggest and test new ways for these two groups to share information better. The goal of her work, supported by MSFHR, the Canadian Population Health Initiative and the BC Ministry for Children and Family Development, is to ensure that more effective interventions are available to help children at risk. Her findings will apply to many other health arenas where improved links between research and policy making are also needed.