I was horrified to read this today. I don’t know that many parents are aware of this, but think that they should be. They should also be aware of how difficult it is to extricate a person of pychiatric drugs once they have started taking them.
Universal Psychiatric Screening for New Zealand Four Year Olds
In September 2008, the New Zealand Government rolled out a new universal four year old health screen, the B4 School Check. . In addition to the general health, vision, hearing and dental checks traditionally conducted on kiwi kids, the B4 School Check includes a screening test for mental disorders, an initiative that arose out of a government plan for addressing conduct disorder in New Zealand children.
In the following year prescribing for 0-4 year olds in New Zealand increased over 140% while Ritalin extended release prescriptions for pre-schoolers doubled.
The lack of effectiveness and potential harm of pre-school mental health screening programmes is well established. A randomized controlled trial of a public health and education screening program which included 4,797 four to five year old children found that at the end of the third school year, no differences were found between children who screened positive for disorders and received intervention and the “no intervention” groups using individual academic achievement, cognitive, and developmental tests.
In its policy paper on the B4 School Check, the Ministry of Health acknowledges that “research does not support the use of mass screening for mental disorders in pre-schoolers” but does not explain why it is then proposing its introduction in NZ.The mental health screen used in the new B4 School Check, the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ), was developed by child psychiatrist and neurologist Dr Robert Goodman of the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College in London.
This screening test has been introduced despite the Ministry of Health acknowledging that the test is “still being evaluated for predictive validity, reliability, sensitivity and specificity.”
Even if the test was valid elsewhere it would not be in New Zealand given that health professionals conducting the test are told by the Ministry that the scoring sheet being used in NZ “is based on the SDQ for older children, and the wording differs in three questions.” No explanation is provided as to why the scoring sheet for an older population has been substituted for the one designed for the pre-school test or how the wording differences affect validity.
Research shows the SDQ produces more false positives than false negatives, resulting in many children with no disorders being referred for diagnostic assessment with false positive results affecting15% to 30% of children.
See the article on the site for more info.