Mason professor and U.S. Preventive Services Task Force member explains recommendations for anxiety screening for children

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Martha Kubik. Photo provided

George Mason University professor Martha Kubik recently made international headlines for her role on the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and its recommendations regarding screening children for anxiety. Kubik, a professor in the College of Health and Human Services’ School of Nursing, explains what the task force does and why it posted a new recommendation that primary care clinicians screen children between the age of 8 and 18 for anxiety.

What is the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force?

The task force is an independent, volunteer body of national experts in primary care, disease prevention and evidence-based medicine. Members typically have clinical practice experience in primary care and are nationally regarded for their research and scholarship. The expertise represented on the task force includes nursing, behavioral health, family medicine, geriatrics, internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology.

The work of the task force is to improve the health of all people nationwide by making evidence-based recommendations about clinical preventive services. These services include screenings, like mammograms, counseling services and preventive medications. On the task force, we use scientifically rigorous methods to review and assess the best available evidence to make conclusions about the benefits and harms of preventive services, which informs our recommendations.

What is your role on the task force?

I was appointed to the task force in 2018 and will complete my service at the end of 2022. As a public health professional, research scientist and advanced practice nurse, I have valued the opportunity to be part of such an important collaborative team effort. It has been an incredible honor and a highlight of my professional career.

As a task force member, I am responsible for prioritizing preventive service topics, designing research plans, reviewing and commenting on systematic evidence reviews, discussing and making recommendations on preventive services, reviewing stakeholder comments, drafting final recommendation documents and participating in work groups on specific topics and methods.

The task force recently posted a new recommendation that primary care clinicians screen children between the ages of 8 and 18 for anxiety. Was this in response to the pandemic?

The task force regularly accepts nominations for new topics. Anxiety in children and adolescents was nominated and prioritized given its public health importance. We began the work on this topic before the pandemic. It takes about three years to fully develop a topic. However, we appreciate the timeliness of the posting relative to growing concerns about the mental health of our youth, which have accelerated with the pandemic.

Anxiety, along with depression, are two of the most common mental health conditions in youth and often occur together. We were already see rising rates in both conditions before the pandemic.

The evidence review supported the effectiveness of screening to identify children and teens with anxiety starting at the age of 8. However, for younger children, the evidence was insufficient to recommend for or against screening. This is an area where more research is needed.

At the same time, we updated our evidence review for depression screening and continue to recommend screening for depression starting at age 12.

With these recommendations, primary care clinicians are equipped with evidence-based preventive strategies to identify anxiety and depression in older children and teens and connect them to the care they need. These are important interventions that can support our young people and improve mental health.

Martha Kubik can be reached at

For more information, contact Anna Stolley Persky at

About George Mason


George Mason University, Virginia’s largest public research university, enrolls 39,000 students from 130 countries and all 50 states. Located near Washington, D.C., Mason has grown rapidly over the last half-century and is recognized for its innovation and entrepreneurship, remarkable diversity and commitment to accessibility. In 2022, Mason celebrates 50 years as an independent institution. Learn more at