Young children, particularly uninsured children of color, suffer from mental health disturbances at rates similar to older children and adults, yet they have higher rates of unmet needs. To address unmet needs, efforts to identify mental health problems in primary care pediatric settings have grown in recent years, thanks in large part to expanded screening efforts. Yet, health disparities in early detection remain. Enhancing understanding of how early childhood mental health problems can be identified and addressed within pediatric settings is an important and growing area of research. The authors draw on theoretical models from public health policy, health psychology, and child development, including health beliefs, help seeking, transtheoretical, motivation to change, and dynamic systems, to better understand and address challenges to and disparities in identifying and addressing mental health problems in pediatric settings. These theories have not previously been applied to early mental health screening and identification efforts. Developmental and sociocultural considerations are highlighted in an effort to address and reduce higher rates of unmet needs among young, uninsured children of color.
© 2013 American Orthopsychiatric Association.