Boston’s New Campaign for Children’s Emotional Health

The Boston Public Health Commission wants to make mental health an easier topic to discuss.

Emotional well-being is an area of health that is often overlooked, especially for children. But the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) wants to change that with a new program.

In partnership with the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services and the Department of Public Health, the BPHC has launched a new awareness and educational campaign to promote healthy emotional development for young children. The program aims to educate people about the importance of mental health and to encourage parents to talk regularly with their pediatrician.

You may have noticed the MBTA bus stop ads with messages like, “Checking in on her emotions is just as important as checking her heartbeat.”  The posters, according to a BPHC press release, represent the first phase of the campaign, which was timed to get the attention of parents during back-to-school season and will be ongoing.

The second phase of the campaign, which is set to roll out in the next few weeks, includes BPHC created toolkits containing flashcards that will be distributed to pediatric providers in all 23 community health centers in Boston. The flashcards are available in multiple languages, designed in a “child-friendly” way and ask simple questions that can help parents start the conversation about childhood social and emotional development. Many common issues are addressed, like crying, sharing, talking, eating, and sleeping, and the cards also provide straightforward tips and advice for parents.

“A pediatrician is one of the most trusted sources of support in a child’s life, so it’s only natural that we partner with our great network of providers,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, Executive Director of BPHC, in a press release.  “Boston is a very diverse city with lots of young parents, so our message is simple.  There’s no shame in talking about emotional health.  It’s such an important part of everyone’s overall health, and there are lots of simple things that we as parents can do to raise happy, healthy children from day one.”

According to the press release:

The colorful, eye-catching posters and flashcards aim to make talking about mental health, a subject that many people find uncomfortable, friendlier. Unlike keeping track of routine physicals and vaccinations, parents and caregivers do not always know how to approach the topic of mental health with their child’s providers. The campaign’s creators hope that the new resources offer an easy way for more parents to start talking to pediatricians about emotional health by using topics that every parent can relate to.

“When we invest in a child’s health, it pays great dividends in the future,” said Health and Human Services Secretary John Polanowicz. “We know that a child’s emotional well-being is integral to their overall physical health. That’s why we launched this public service campaign in partnership with the Boston Public Health Commission to encourage parents to talk with their pediatricians about their child’s emotional health.”

In addition, the Mass-Boston Partnership for Early Childhood Mental Health has established teams of early childhood mental health clinicians and family partners that have experience caring for children with special needs at seven community health centers in Boston. The seven sites with clinician-family partner teams are: The Bowdoin Street Community Health Center, Joseph M. Smith Community Health Center, Dorchester House Multi-Service Center, Martha Eliot Health Center, Codman Square Community Health Center, Boston Medical Center, and Boston Health Care for the Homeless.

An example of the MBTA ads:

Ad provided by the Boston Public Health Commission

Ad provided by the Boston Public Health Commission

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