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Dr. Teresa Bennett and the Offord Centre for Child Studies, McMaster Children’s Hospital’s Child and the Youth Mental Health Program: Making the Race Fair

  • November 16, 2016
  • News

Hamilton Health Sciences Research Administration is excited to feature researchers and projects that are tackling real-life, close-to-home Hamilton issues and having a positive effect on our patients, families and our community.

Dr. Teresa Bennett and the Offord Centre for Child Studies: Making the Race Fair

The World Health Organization estimates that mental illness will pose the greatest health burden to affluent countries by the year 2030. Childhood emotional and behavioural problems (EBP) including aggression, anxiety and depression, occur in 12-26% of children under age 6 years are arguably the single strongest predictor of severe and persistent mental health problems.

Closer to home here in Hamilton, early childhood poverty rates are over 50% in 18 neighbourhoods. Considering the socio-economic hardship faced by many families impacted by chronic mental illness, there is an urgent need to provide evidence-based child and family intervention early, when children’s brains and behaviour are more likely to be shaped by changes in caregiving practice, family well-being and environmental risk.

How can we examine what barriers exist for early identification of children at risk of mental health problems? What real-world pathways are required to mitigate this? How can we optimize outreach and family engagement to address mental health, while minimizing stigma?

This is where Dr. Bennett, the Offord Centre for Child Studies, and the McMaster Children’s Hospital’s Child and Youth Mental Health Program come in.

In line with Hamilton’s vision to be the “Best City to Raise a Child,” Dr. Bennett’s goal is to connect families with the Family Check-Up – a brief program that engages caregivers and is aimed at decreasing the risk of persistent EBP in children at risk. Developed during 30 years of research in the United States, the Family Check-Up has been shown to prevent or decrease child and adolescent behavior problems.

Together with a team of clinicians, researchers and trainees at McMaster Children’s Hospital and the Offord Centre for Child Studies, Dr. Bennett will lead “Making the Race Fair,” the first Canadian implementation and evaluation study of the Family Check-Up as an early intervention, to be delivered within high-needs Hamilton neighbourhoods.

The driving force behind Dr. Bennett’s work is the integration of research in clinical practice to improve the outcomes for children with mental health difficulties. This research will directly impact very young children at risk of severe and persistent mental health problems, families living in high-needs neighbourhoods, as well as families having trouble accessing health care, right here in Hamilton.

This important study is helping make Hamilton the best place to raise a child.

For more information on the Making the Race Fair study, please contact Julie Gross at grossj@mcmaster.ca

Dr. Teresa (Terry Bennett) B.A.SC (HON.), M.D., FRCPC, PH.D. ASSISTANT PROFESSOR

Dr. Teresa (Terry) Bennett is a child and adolescent psychiatrist, a member of the Offord Centre for Child Studies and assistant professor in the department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences at McMaster University.   Dr. Bennett is a graduate of McMaster University’s Arts and Science, Medical and Psychiatric Residency programs. More recently at McMaster, she completed a PhD in Health Research Methodology.

Dr. Bennett is also a member of the Province of Ontario Neurodevelopment (POND) Network, and the McMaster lead investigator for the Ontario Clinical Trials Network (OCTN), a consortium of clinical trialists aimed at testing novel medications for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Through this work, Dr. Bennett is part of a team that is creating a hub for ASD clinical trials research in Hamilton.