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Undetected Mental Health Problems in Kids

Posted Jun 10 2010 8:58am

The American Academy of Pediatrics has started a long overdue campaign to get pediatricians to detect mental health problems in children in their early years. This is something that I  have  long advocated and about which I feel very strongly. the AAP notes that there are fourteen million children with some kind of mental health problem. This equals one in five kids.

An article on June first in the Wall Street Journal by Shirley Wang noted that 21% of chidlren in the U.S. have a diagnosable mental health problem, but only one-fifth of these receive any treatment. I would add that a large number of these kids are also undetected. Included in the mental health category are attention-deficit disorders, autism, and anxiety. Now that 1:150 kids are being diagnosed in the autism spectrum, early detection and treatment is a must. However, if the average physician sees a patient for just 8.5 minutes and doesn't get the know the families or the kids, how can they possibly pick up mental health disorders? Our whole medical system is completely broken. Hopefully, some of the provisions in the new healthcare bill will pay for detection and treatment of more kids with mental health issues. However, since pediatricians are the least well paid of any specialty, something will have to be done to allow them to bill for spending more time with patients.

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