Mental Health Research: Policies with Promise


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This is part of our Mental Health & Latino Kids: A Research Review »

Policies are lacking on mental health and Latino kids

In addition to the evaluation of programs and interventions dedicated to the improvement of mental health among Latino youth, there is a need for Latino-specific mental health policies at the local, state, and federal levels.

Current healthcare policy has been focused primarily on reorganization of the healthcare system and payment reform without much consideration of the factors outside of medicine that affect health.

Latino mental and physical health are influenced by many factors, including neighborhood characteristics, employment, social policies, culture, and beliefs about health; the implementation of health impact assessments that evaluate the health consequences of policies, such as minimum wage laws, for example, is vital to understanding how to eliminate these disparities.55

Industry policy recommendations

In the meantime, recommendations from the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) unequal treatment report, including broader availability of interpreter services and economic incentives for providers for the improvement of provider-patient communication, can be adapted to mental health care. Federal policy mandating greater diversity of the mental health workforce and culturally appropriate education for providers is also necessary for the reduction of disparities in mental health.56

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Task Force on Mental Health recommends that primary care providers ask patients two to three questions about behavior and functioning during every visit to identify children with behavioral health problems, allowing for preventative and interventional therapies to address these issues. While this recommendation is not specific to the Latino population, culturally-appropriate interventions and therapies can certainly be developed and implemented.57

Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child framework

In 2013, the ASCD and the CDC assembled an expert panel to develop a new model for a school public health framework, combining elements from the existing coordinated school health (CSH) framework, which employs a systems-based approach, and the Whole Child approach, which is focused on the student.

As a result of this series of meetings, the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) framework was developed.

This model combines the student-as-focal-point tenet of the Whole Child initiative with the CSH’s emphasis on the school as a vital part of the community.

The components of the WSCC framework include structured, formal health education; a nutritional environment that meets the federal nutrition standards of the National School Lunch, Breakfast, and Smart Snacks in School Programs; employee wellness programs; a positive social and emotional school climate; a safe physical school environment; counseling, psychological, and social services; greater community involvement; family engagement; and a comprehensive school physical activity program (CSPAP).58

This framework requires the collaborative development of policies and processes so that it can be put into action, including higher education programs that prepare school staff for the effective implementation of the WSCC model; the development and implementation of community engagement initiatives by local, state and federal philanthropic organizations; and the establishment of accountability measures by state and federal education and health departments.

The model also emphasizes and fosters the connection between families and schools, which is extremely important to the success of the student, both academically and behaviorally.58

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References for this section »

55. Woolf, S. H. & Braveman, P. Where Health Disparities Begin: The Role Of Social And Economic Determinants—And Why Current Policies May Make Matters Worse. Health Aff. (Millwood) 30, 1852–1859 (2011).

56. McGuire, T. G. & Miranda, J. New Evidence Regarding Racial And Ethnic Disparities In Mental Health: Policy Implications. Health Aff. (Millwood) 27, 393–403 (2008).

57. Carrey, N. J., Curran, J. A., Greene, R., Nolan, A. & McLuckie, A. Embedding mental health interventions in early childhood education systems for at-risk preschoolers: an evidence to policy realist review. Syst. Rev. 3, 84 (2014).

58. Lewallen, T. C., Hunt, H., Potts-Datema, W., Zaza, S. & Giles, W. The Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child Model: A New Approach for Improving Educational Attainment and Healthy Development for Students. J. Sch. Health 85, 729–739 (2015).

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