This paper gives an introduction to the psychosocial work in the Swedish Child Health Services (CHS). There are substantial problems in defining and evaluating the preventive mental health work of the CHS. The issues raised include: why early preventive intervention is important; the promotion of parental mental health as an aim of the CHS; how the CHS can increase parenting knowledge and skills; what evidence there is about intervention among target groups; and finally, how recent research knowledge can be applied in the CHS.
Effective health promotion intervention is understood to modify appropriate risk and protective factors. The relevance of such interventions for the Child Health Service (CHS) was examined in three steps. In the first step, the six most important public health problems in the target group that might be affected by CHS interventions were identified. The health problems include sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), mental health problems, injuries, infections, asthma and allergic and nutritional disorders. In the second step, three groups of modifiable determinants were identified: risk and protective factors for (i) SIDS, asthma and allergic disorders and airway tract infections (determinants: breastfeeding, environmental tobacco smoke, sleeping non-prone and lacking indoor ventilation). (ii) injuries and (iii) mental health problems. In the third step, evidence for the preventive measure's ability to alleviate the effects of these risk factors was scrutinized. Evidence was found for effectiveness of CHS interventions aiming at decrease of environmental tobacco smoke. Evidence was also found for injury prevention provided that the intervention is a part of a wider community effort, and possibly also if it is very focused. Requirements for mental health promotion are also at hand. Thus, effective health promotion via CHS interventions is feasible.