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The Role of Public Health in Mental and Behavioral Health in Children and Families Following Disasters


Objectives: Children and youth have been shown to be vulnerable to negative mental and behavioral health consequences following mass disasters and terrorist attacks. The purpose of this article was to identify the primary roles and responsibilities of public health agencies and systems that both promote resiliency and reduce the mental health risks to children and their families following disastrous events.

Methods: The authors conducted a review and synthesis of public and mental health research literatures, resources, and policies focused on mental and behavioral health outcomes in children and families in the aftermath of disasters.

Results: The available research evidence supported the contention that children experience heightened psychosocial vulnerabilities and lasting psychosocial burdens following disasters. The major roles that public health organizations and systems can play to both prevent and deter such harmful mental and behavioral health impacts of disasters during all phases of the disaster cycle were identified.

Conclusions: The roles identified that public health organizations and systems can undertake included coordination and collaboration with various local and federal agencies, advocacy and promotion of community resilience, deterring harmful effects of disastrous events by assessment, screening, case finding and education, training of personnel, guiding interventions, formulating policy, and conducting research investigations.

Publication Information

Full Citation:

Beaton, Randal D., Shirley A. Murphy, J. Brian Houston, Gilbert Reyes, Suzette Bramwell, Michelle McDaniel, Dori B. Reissman, and Betty Pfefferbaum. 2009. "The Role of Public Health in Mental and Behavioral Health in Children and Families Following Disasters." Journal of Public Health Management and Practice 15 (November): 1-11. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19823144

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