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Screening for Depression in Primary Care Settings

Statement of Problem

Many teenagers experience difficulties with depression that can negatively affect their relationships, productivity in school and overall ability to function. Unfortunately, many of these adolescents go unidentified and, therefore, do not receive services to meet their needs. For this reason, the American Academy of Pediatrics has promoted primary care as an essential setting to identify and manage adolescent depression, with its most recent guidelines recommending depression screening at all well visits starting at age 12. Despite these recommendations, studies indicate that between 2005 and 2010, less than one percent of adolescents were screened for depression during primary care visits. In light of these challenges, there have been a number of innovative strategies that aim to enhance the feasibility and effectiveness of identifying adolescent depression in primary care.


Improving Depression Screening in Adolescent Primary Care


After implementing a universal depression screening for youth ages 12-17, about 25 percent of youth had elevated symptoms of depression scores on the PHQ-9-M.

Next Steps

Recently, CHOP instituted depression screenings at all well-child visits starting at age 12. We plan to examine these data to see whether the rates of screening, elevated scores and follow up continue as this screening expands to more adolescents. Moving forward, it is imperative to ensure that youth identified with elevated symptoms of depression receive appropriate and timely care. For this reason, we are looking at ways to promote integrated care for adolescents with more significant depression and are examining the feasibility and effectiveness of delivering depression prevention programs in primary care for adolescents with borderline PHQ-9-M scores. We hope that these initiatives will not only identify adolescents in need of services, but will provide an opportunity for these adolescents to receive services that meet their unique needs in primary care.

This project page was last updated in September 2019.

Suggested Citation

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, PolicyLab. Screening for Depression in Primary Care Settings [online]. Available at: [Accessed: plug in date accessed here]. 

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