Following our discussion of the evidence-based movement, I would like to highlight the recent work of Future of Children contributor Col. Stephen Cozza (U.S. Army, retired) and the National Military Family Bereavement Study. In a recent interview, Cozza, who is a professor of psychiatry and associate director of the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, explained that the study aims to guide policy by creating a greater base of empirical data on how immediate family members are affected when a service member passes away.
In the interview, Cozza argued that basing policy on research is important for these families, whose needs vary based on relationship to the deceased, the type of death, geographic location, and other factors. By gathering data on these scenarios, Cozza hopes to better advise policy makers on how to help these families.
Even before the study began, Cozza established the importance of this research in his Future of Children article with Allison Holmes and Paula Rauch. A parent’s death in combat not only brings immediate grief, it can also mean that survivors lose their identity within the military community, especially if they have been living on base and need to leave. Additionally, sudden, violent deaths—such as suicides, accidents, and combat-related deaths—are more common among service members than in the general population, and such deaths have been shown to bring a greater risk of PTSD and other emotional issues for surviving loved ones.
Another Future of Children article suggested building communities of care for military families and pointed to a need for further research on how to best do so. In the article, communities of care are defined as complex systems that work across individual, parent/child, family, community, military, and national levels of organization to promote the health and development of military children and families. The authors highlighted the tensions that exist in creating these interdisciplinary care communities. When we attempt to create collaborative communities of care and run into conflicts between the training of clinicians and public health professionals, research evidence could create an objective common ground on which to base programs and policy. Cozza’s National Military Family Bereavement Study is an example of the evidence-based movement in action.
For more Future of Children articles on military families, see our Fall 2013 issue, Military Children and Families. For more on the evidence-based movement, check out this interview with Future of Children senior editor Ron Haskins.