Prevalence and correlates of local health department activities to address mental health in the United States

Jonathan Purtle, Ann C. Klassen, Jennifer Kolker, James W. Buehler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mental health has been recognized as a public health priority for nearly a century. Little is known, however, about what local health departments (LHDs) do to address the mental health needs of the populations they serve. Using data from the 2013 National Profile of Local Health Departments - a nationally representative survey of LHDs in the United States (N = 505) - we characterized LHDs' engagement in eight mental health activities, factors associated with engagement, and estimated the proportion of the U.S. population residing in jurisdictions where these activities were performed. We used Handler's framework of the measurement of public health systems to select variables and examined associations between LHD characteristics and engagement in mental health activities using bivariate analyses and multilevel, multivariate logistic regression. Assessing gaps in access to mental healthcare services (39.3%) and implementing strategies to improve access to mental healthcare services (32.8%) were the most common mental health activities performed. LHDs that provided mental healthcare services were significantly more likely to perform population-based mental illness prevention activities (adjusted odds ratio: 7.1; 95% CI: 5.1, 10.0) and engage in policy/advocacy activities to address mental health (AOR: 3.9; 95% CI: 2.7, 5.6). Our study suggests that many LHDs are engaged in activities to address mental health, ranging from healthcare services to population-based interventions, and that LHDs that provide healthcare services are more likely than others to perform mental health activities. These findings have implications as LHDs reconsider their roles in the era of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and LHD accreditation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)20-27
Number of pages8
JournalPreventive Medicine
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


  • Health promotion
  • Health services research
  • Mental health services
  • Preventive psychiatry
  • Primary prevention
  • Public health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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