Pediatricians Treating More Kids With Behavioral Problems

Yet they often don't feel qualified to do so, study finds

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TUESDAY, Sept. 7, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Pediatricians are diagnosing and treating an increasing number of children with behavioral health problems, but they don't always feel comfortable or adequately trained to do so, says a Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center study.

Interviews with community pediatricians found that about 15 percent of the children they see have behavioral health problems. Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is the most common behavioral health condition seen by pediatricians, who expressed a high level of comfort with the diagnosis.

But they felt less sure about dealing with children suffering from anxiety or depression. Less than half the pediatricians said they frequently diagnosed anxiety or depression in children. Those who did typically used questionnaires in making the diagnosis.

The study appears in the September issue of Pediatrics.

Chronic underfunding of the public mental health system is one reason why pediatricians are treating more children with behavioral health problems, the study said. It noted that only about 2 percent of children with such problems are seen by mental health specialists.

The study said many pediatricians feel that medical school and residency training programs did not prepare them to deal with these children. As a result, they often feel unprepared to treat depression and anxiety in children.

The findings indicate that pediatricians need increased training and continuing medical education in behavioral health, the study authors said.

More information

The U.S. Center for Mental Health Services has more about child and adolescent mental health.

SOURCE: Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, news release, September 2004

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