Primary Care and Children's Mental Health in Brazil

Cristiane S. Paula, Eunice Nakamura, Lawrence Wissow, Isabel A. Bordin, Rosimeire do Nascimento, Álvaro Madeiro Leite, Antonio Cunha, Denise Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Objective: Primary care offers opportunities to expand children's access to mental health (MH) services, but a given practice's community context and staff attitudes may influence which integration models are feasible. The aim of this study was to explore the possibility of using community-based primary care to increase access to MH services in low-income communities in Brazil. Methods: A qualitative study was undertaken using focus groups with adolescents aged 11 to 16 (n = 46), parents (n = 40), and primary care clinicians and staff (n = 52) from public-sector health centers in 6 low-income Brazilian communities chosen for their geographic diversity. Results: Parents felt they had little support in parenting and attributed much of their children's behavior and mood problems to life in violent, poor communities. Parents thought that primary care could potentially be a source of MH care, but that clinicians often seemed rushed or uninterested. Clinicians classified many child problems as issues with parenting rather than MH. Nonprofessional staff was more likely to be a source of support to parents, except at one center that had a truly integrated MH service. Adolescents reported little need for MH services. Conclusions: Expanding the role of primary care in child MH may require close attention to how parents, adolescents, and clinicians define their problems and on the causes to which they attribute them. These factors interact with differences in how centers organize MH care, and the extent to which they take advantage of patient interactions with nonprofessional staff.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)249-255.e1
JournalAcademic pediatrics
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Brazil
  • MH
  • primary health care
  • qualitative research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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