From the outset, partners in the Child & Youth Health Network struggled to identify and agree upon a ‘theory of change’. In other words, we struggled to determine exactly how we were going to improve health outcomes for children and youth.
Over time, the network identified three broad strategies:
- Upstream Approaches (i.e. a focus on the early years);
- Systems Change (i.e. influencing policy and practice); and
- Increasing connectedness for children and youth (in four domains: family, school, community & peers).
Research shows that connectedness to family, community, school and peers is directly linked to improved mental health for youth, as well as to reduced risk, including less self-harming behaviours, less frequent suicidal ideation and reduced substance use. Therefore, improving connectedness for children and youth became a primary focus.
Network partners decided to focus on increasing connectedness as the strategy for the first five-year campaign. The ‘measures of connectedness‘ was the initial project associated with this focus area.