McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Reducing wait times for children's mental health services

Published: January 18, 2007
Dr. Salim Yusuf
Dr. Charles Cunningham, professor of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences and the Jack Laidlaw Chair in Patient Centred Health Care at McMaster University.

Investigators at McMaster University, the IWK Health Centre, and Dalhousie University are leading a team of world-class researchers on a series of projects that will directly improve access to health care for children struggling with mental health disorders.

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) has awarded a five-year, $4 million grant to the CIHR Team in Access to Children’s Mental Health Services with the aim of improving timely access to cost-effective, evidence-based mental health services for children. The team is led by Dr. Charles Cunningham, professor of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences and the Jack Laidlaw Chair in Patient Centred Health Care at McMaster University, along with Dr. Patrick McGrath, IWK Health Centre psychologist and a professor of Psychology, Pediatrics and Psychiatry at Dalhousie University.  The team also includes co-investigators from the University of Western Ontario, University of Calgary and Simon Fraser University.

"The research led by Drs. McGrath and Cunningham will help improve Canadian children’s health by reducing wait times for children’s mental health services," said Dr. Alan Bernstein, President of CIHR. "The information collected by this team will help policy and decision-makers determine what the standard intervention treatments and wait time should be."

Epidemiological studies suggest that approximately 14 per cent of Canadian children aged 4 to 17 years have diagnosable mental health problems, but that 80 per cent of them do not receive timely specialist care.

"The design of this family-centred project has been informed by CIHR-funded consumer preference modeling research which asked families how best to reduce waiting times for children's mental health services," said Cunningham

"Timely and appropriate treatment of child mental health is critical for children and their families and significant for the productivity of our society," said McGrath, who holds a Canada Research Chair in Pediatric Pain. "Our team grant is a good example of how the CIHR is advancing the health of Canadians."

Cunningham and McGrath, each world leaders in child health research, will join forces with provincial mental health services and children’s mental health centres on the interdisciplinary team as they develop and evaluate a seamless system of interim intervention for child mental health problems.

The team’s grant will help fund five research projects that will be community-focused, determining the characteristics that families and health care professionals want in a program to reduce waiting times for children’s mental health services. The completed system will bring together complementary assessment and treatment components, representing a realistic and promising solution to children’s mental health waiting lists.

For more information about the team and their work, please visit,

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