Emory Report

November 16, 1998

 Volume 51, No. 12

Carter Center Update

Rosalynn Carter Convenes Mental Health Symposium

Nearly 200 representatives of 60 mental health and child development organizations, schools of public health and universities nationwide will gather at The Carter Center Nov. 18-19 for the 14th annual Rosalynn Carter Symposium on Mental Health Policy. This year's topic is "Promoting Positive and Healthy Behaviors in Children."

Attendees will discuss behaviors and characteristics of children often associated with success later in life. They also will talk about how families can foster such attributes in children and what services and programs are available to families in their communities to further that process. Carter, a leading mental health advocate for more than 20 years and chair of The Carter Center's Mental Health Task Force, will provide opening and closing remarks.

"The health and development of today's children is an imperative issue--especially in view of the prevalence of societal problems such as drug and alcohol abuse, teen pregnancy and school drop-out rates," said John Gates, director of the center's Mental Health Program. "This meeting will focus on promoting behaviors, skills and characteristics that strengthen the capacity of children to function successfully and to reach their full potential--hopefully preventing problems later in life."

William Foege, distinguished professor at the School of Public Health and executive director of the Task Force for Child Survival and Development, will join Carter at the opening session. "I am pleased to be part of this symposium," he said. "Helping children develop the emotional and cognitive skills they need to live healthier lives is a goal many organizations and individuals share. Bringing together accomplished leaders in the mental health and child development fields is an excellent start to deciphering what tools and approaches work best. I look forward to sharing my thoughts with the audience and to learning more about what they consider to be the most pressing issues at hand."

David Hamburg, president emeritus of the Carnegie Corporation and a member of The Carter Center's board of trustees, will present the keynote address, "A Developmental Strategy for Lifelong Benefit." American Psychological Association President Martin Seligman is the featured dinner speaker.

During the symposium discussion and working groups will focus on such subjects as child development, education, resiliency, parenting skills and children's mental health. Potential collaboration between governmental and non-governmental organizations in local communities also will be explored, along with policies and programs such as a data-tracking system that would be needed to support such efforts.

Jane Delgado, president and chief executive officer of the National Coalition of Hispanic Health and Human Service Organizations and a member of the center's task force, will serve as a the event's moderator. "This year's symposium is of interest to me for many reasons," she said. "We will be able to review, as a group, factors that influence the mental health and emotional well-being of children from differing cultures. For example," she continued, "girls who are Hispanic immigrants are less likely to become pregnant than those of Hispanic descent born and raised in the U.S. Why is that? This symposium will at least raise the idea of looking at such issues and how best to deal with them."

Other organizations represented will include the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the Early Head Start National Resource Center, the National Resilience Resource Center and the High/Scope Educational Research Foundation. Findings of the symposium will be published in a report that the center's Mental Health Program will produce and distribute in early 1999.

"Our hope is that this symposium will encourage all of us to look more closely at what is 'right' about our children," said Gates. "We need to consider their skills, assets and abilities, and find better ways to foster positive characteristics."

--Ann Carney is assistant director of public information at The Carter Center.

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