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Latest HRSA MCHB Data Highlight Children’s Mental Health Needs

Dr. Michael D. Warren, Pediatrician and Associate Administrator for the Maternal and Child Health Bureau at HRSAThe health and well-being of our children will determine the future of our nation.  As we recognized Child Health Day on Monday, I reflected on the nation’s journey through the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and the barriers children faced to growing and developing physically, socially, and emotionally this past year and a half.

During this challenging time, I take some comfort in knowing that the Maternal and Child Health Bureau’s work to improve access to care, advance health equity, build capacity in the field of Maternal and Child Health, and increase our impact will create a more nurturing and healthy environment for all of the nation’s children.

We strive for access to equitable and high-quality health systems and services that support the physical, social, and emotional development of children during each stage of life. We rely on data to tell us exactly what the health needs and gaps are. 

On Child Health Day, we released our latest data on the health and well-being of children ages 0 to 17:  The National Survey of Children’s Health.  I encourage you to use the data—the most comprehensive national and state-level estimates available—to improve the health and well-being of all children in America, starting in your own states and communities.

The survey data highlight many important trends, a key one being the increase in children’s mental health needs over the past five years.  From 2016-2020, emotional disorders among children ages 3 to 17 increased from 1 in 12 children to 1 in 10.  In particular, we saw significant increases in the proportion of adolescents as well as Hispanic and non-Hispanic White children who were diagnosed with either depression or anxiety.

Our Maternal and Child Health Bureau’s programs are essential to delivering the support and services children need for optimal mental and behavioral health.  For example, our Home Visiting Program helps teach positive parenting skills like reading, playing, and praising good behaviors.  Our Pediatric Mental Health Care Access Program promotes behavioral health integration into pediatric primary care by supporting pediatric mental health care telehealth access programs.  HRSA recently expanded this program to reach 40 states, DC, two territories, and two tribal communities.  Through these and other MCHB programs, we are building capacity among the nation’s providers to make mental and behavioral health services more accessible, including to those in Tribal areas and U.S. territories.

Thank you for working to make children feel safe and connected every day.  And thank you for seizing every opportunity to use our data to improve the health and well-being of our nation’s children.

Sincerely,

Dr. Michael D. Warren, Pediatrician and Associate Administrator for the Maternal and Child Health Bureau at HRSA

Date Last Reviewed:  October 2021