Category Archives: Family and Social Support

Nov 10 2014
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To Honor Our Returning Veterans, We Must Address Their Family Needs

Tova Walsh, PhD, MSW, is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Health & Society Scholar at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Her research focuses on the role expectant and new fathers play in the health and well-being of their partners and children, and the influence of parenthood on men's health and well-being. Walsh has used interview, focus group and survey data to examine the experiences of service members returning to family life after deployment.

Tova Walsh (Veterans Day)

On Veterans Day, we honor the service and sacrifice of U.S. military veterans.  Recognizing that it is not just the individual who serves our country, but his or her entire family, we honor, too, our military families, whose support is essential for our servicemen and women to carry out their duties.

When a service member deploys, partners, children and other family members re-organize their lives to accommodate the physical absence of a loved one. They live each day bearing the burden of separation. When their deployed loved one returns home, they share not only in the joy of long-awaited reunion, but also in the joy and challenges of the extended process of the veteran’s reintegration to home, family and community. The youngest members of our military families are least able to understand or express the impact of these experiences, and yet are deeply affected by these transitions and the accompanying shifts in emotions on the part of the adults who they depend upon for care, love and security.

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Nov 6 2014
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RWJF Scholars in the News: Simulating combat conditions for medical and nursing students, enriched maternity care, GMO confusion and more.

Around the country, print, broadcast and online media outlets are covering the groundbreaking work of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, fellows, alumni and grantees. Some recent examples:

An article on dcmilitary.com describes a recent training exercise conducted for medical and nursing students at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU). The students cared for “patients” under simulated combat conditions that included mock explosions and casualties, operational problems, and reality-based missions. Arthur Kellermann, MD, MPH, dean of the F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine of USU, noted that while the exercise is focused on enhancing leadership and patient care skills, students are also practicing cultural sensitivity and problem-solving abilities. “All of this is wrapped into an incredibly challenging series of unfolding scenarios,” Kellermann said. “They are constantly being thrown problems. They have to adapt and learn to work with one another in a variety of ways and a variety of combinations.” Kellerman is an alumnus of the RWJF Clinical Scholars and Health Policy Fellows programs. Read more from Kellermann on the Human Capital Blog.

A study by Sara Rosenbaum, JD, examines the challenge of maintaining and coordinating “enriched health care” for pregnant women in California who purchase subsidized coverage from Covered California, the state’s health care exchange, and are also eligible for the state’s Medicaid program (Medi-Cal) and the Comprehensive Perinatal Services Program (CPSP) it offers. Science Daily reports that CPSP makes enriched maternity care available to pregnant women facing elevated health, environmental and social risks due to their economic status. Researchers compared maternity care under the two programs and identified a number of care coordination and integration challenges. Rosenbaum is an RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research recipient. 

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Oct 16 2014
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RWJF Scholars in the News: Ebola safeguards, pay-for-performance, brain development and more.

Around the country, print, broadcast and online media outlets are covering the groundbreaking work of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, fellows, alumni and grantees. Some recent examples:

PBS NewsHour interviews Howard Markel, MD, PhD, FAAP, on whether hospitals, doctors and nurses are sufficiently prepared to handle Ebola cases in the United States, and what measures should be taken to increase safety. “As someone who studies epidemics, there’s always lots of fear, scapegoating and blame,” Markel, an RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research recipient, said. “American tolerance for anything less than perfection has only shortened. The incredible thing to focus on is that so little has happened, so few cases have spread here.” The video is available here and an accompanying article is available here. Markel is also quoted in an Ebola story in the New Republic and wrote a blog for the Huffington Post.

In an article for Forbes magazine, RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research recipient Peter Ubel, MD, discusses whether pay-for-performance health care models can lead to overdiagnosis and overuse of antibiotics. He cites recent journal articles suggesting that sepsis may be over diagnosed in hospitals because the institutions receive higher reimbursements for sepsis patients than for those with milder infections. “In other words, it pays not to miss sepsis diagnoses,” Ubel writes. “Because of the inherent subjectivity of medical diagnoses, those groups that assess health care quality need to remain on the alert for the unintended consequences of their measures. And those insurers and regulators eager to establish clinical care mandates? They need to slow down and make sure their administrative fixes do not create undue side effects.” Ubel also wrote a separate Forbes article on health insurance turnover.

Recent research on children who began life in overcrowded Romanian orphanages shows that early childhood neglect is associated with changes in brain structure, Science Times reports. A study co-authored by RWJF Health & Society Scholars program alumna Margaret Sheridan, PhD, finds that children who spent their early years in Romanian orphanages have thinner brain tissue in cortical areas that correspond to impulse control and attention, providing support for a link between the early environment and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Researchers compared brain scans from 58 children who spent at least some time in institutions with scans of 22 non-institutionalized children from nearby communities, all between the ages of 8 and 10. The article notes that the study is among the first to document how social deprivation in early life affects the thickness of the cortex.

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Jul 29 2014
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Childhood Trauma: A Public Health Problem that Requires a Robust Response

Cindy A. Crusto, PhD, is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) New Connections grantee, an associate professor of psychology in psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, and a Public Voices Fellow with The OpEd Project.

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Were the findings really a surprise? The recent release of the report The Burden of Stress in America commissioned by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard School of Public Health, highlights the major role that stress plays in the health and well-being of American adults. As a researcher who studies the impact of emotional or psychological trauma on children’s health, I immediately thought about the findings in the context of trauma and the associated stress in the lives of children. That trauma can include violence in the home, school, and community.

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Two decades of research has produced clear findings on this significant public health problem: Psychological trauma can have a powerful influence in the lives of children, and if not detected and addressed early, it can (and often does) have long-lasting physical and mental health effects into adulthood. Despite this strong evidence, I have encountered the sheer resistance of some advocates who work with or on behalf of vulnerable children to fully engage in this topic. Perhaps it’s because of the belief that this talk about trauma is a fad—a hot topic that will fade as soon as something “sexier” comes along.

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Jan 29 2014
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Serious Illnesses Changed Our Perspectives for 2014 and Beyond

Taura Barr, PhD, RN, is an assistant professor at the West Virginia University School of Nursing. Timothy Landers, PhD, RN, CNP, is an assistant professor at The Ohio State University College of Nursing. Both are Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Faculty Scholars. This post is part of the “Health Care in 2014” series.

Taura Barr Taura Barr and her family.
Timothy Landers Timothy Landers and his family.

This is the time of year when people consider how they are doing with their new year’s resolutions. The three most common resolutions are lose weight, improve finances, and exercise more. Two out of three of those resolutions involve health.

Sadly, most of these resolutions will fail.

While we rate our physical, emotional, and spiritual health as a top priority, in practice we often fall short. This seems to be especially true for us as health care providers and our health care system.

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Dec 30 2013
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In the Right Place at the Right Time: RWJF Scholar Saves Choking Toddler

Quick thinking and a lucky coincidence saved a toddler’s life, and the incident is serving as a powerful reminder about the need to train parents and other caregivers about what to do when children choke.

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Maja Djukic, PhD, RN, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Nurse Faculty Scholar and assistant professor at the New York University College of Nursing, was rollerblading near her home in Connecticut this fall when she heard screaming. Djukic raced to the scene to find a one-year-old boy limp and turning blue. The boy’s father was calling 9-1-1 while him mother tried, unsuccessfully, to clear his air passages. Djukic was able to do so; she had the child breathing by the time an ambulance arrived. He has fully recovered.

In “Keeping Little Breaths Flowing,” Jane E. Brody of the New York Times wrote about the incident, noting that “few parents of newborns are taught how to prevent choking and what to do if it occurs.” Brody’s two-part piece on cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) concludes with “How CPR Can Save a Life,” in which she focuses on resuscitating adult victims of cardiac arrest.

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Jun 11 2013
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The Chicago Parent Program: An Effective Tool for Low-Income, Urban Parents

Deborah Gross, DNSc, RN, FAAN, is the Leonard and Helen Stulman Endowed Chair in Mental Health & Psychiatric Nursing at the Johns Hopkins University Schools of Nursing, Medicine, and Public Health. She is also an alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Executive Nurse Fellows program (2006-2009).

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As a child psychiatric nurse, my mission is to make a difference in the lives of families with young children, particularly those living in low-income, urban communities. 

There is now wide consensus that early childhood is the most cost-effective time for targeting prevention and early intervention. The foundation for children’s mental health is formed during the first five years of life, when 90 percent of brain development occurs. Since parents are the primary mediators of their young children’s earliest social and learning environments, any effort to promote mental health in young children must first and foremost engage parents and help them build up their strengths and caregiving capacities.

Nearly 20 years ago, I began searching the literature for parenting programs that had a strong evidence base and demonstrated substantial and enduring effects on parenting quality and children’s behavior. What I discovered is that the strongest programs available had been originally developed and tested on White, middle-class families. As a result, their content and delivery methods were often built on values and assumptions many families I knew could not relate to. 

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Sep 4 2012
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National Diaper Need Awareness Week

Joanne Goldblum is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Community Health Leader, and the founder and executive director of the National Diaper Bank Network. The following post originally appeared on the Huffington Post.

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This year, the National Diaper Bank Network is recognizing the week of September 10-17 as National Diaper Need Awareness Week, and local diaper banks across the country have asked their state and local officials to do the same. But more than merely declaring a week, we are acknowledging that the country is becoming more and more aware of the fact that diapers are a basic need for infants, toddlers, and those who suffer from incontinence, and that more people are willing to do something about it.

We have come very far in bringing attention to diaper need in the eight years since I began this journey in 2004. When I started The Diaper Bank in New Haven, CT there were very few diaper banks in America, so I looked to the example of the Diaper Bank of Southern Arizona, the nation’s first diaper bank. That program began in 1994 when a small consulting firm in Tucson, Arizona held a diaper drive during the holiday season to assist a local crisis nursery. Encouraged by the enthusiastic response, and seeing the great need in their community, the firm made the December Diaper Drive an annual tradition, and within five years they were collecting 300,000 diapers each December, benefiting families at 30 local social service agencies. In 2000, the diaper drive effort was spun off into an independent non-profit organization, the Diaper Bank of Southern Arizona, which continues to provide desperately needed diapers to the people of southern Arizona.

The Diaper Bank of Southern Arizona served as my inspiration in 2004 when I decided to start a diaper bank. Through my work with families in need New Haven, I learned that many of the hygiene products I took for granted, such as toilet paper, toothpaste, and diapers, were not available to people who had only food stamps to buy their groceries. The need for diapers, which are so critical for a baby’s health and comfort, was particularly acute. I started small, working out of my living room, but in a few years time, with the help of many others, what started as The New Haven Diaper Bank (now, The Diaper Bank) has grown into the nation’s largest diaper bank, distributing over 14 million diapers since its inception.

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May 21 2012
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Improving on Success: Why the Nurse-Family Partnership Model is a Work in Progress

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David Olds, PhD, is founder of the Nurse-Family Partnership, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation 40th Anniversary Force Multiplier that provides maternal and early childhood health programs for at-risk, first-time mothers. He is a professor of pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, where he directs the Prevention Research Center for Family and Child Health.

When I finished my undergraduate degree in Baltimore in 1970, I went to work at an inner-city day care center, hoping that I might help poor preschoolers get off to a great start and have a better chance of succeeding in school and becoming productive, healthy citizens. But I soon realized that for many children in my classroom, it was already too little, too late. One little boy had been exposed to alcohol during pregnancy and was pretty profoundly developmentally compromised—he couldn’t communicate with words. Other children were being abused or neglected, so it was clear to me that parents’ prenatal health and parenting behaviors were part of the solution for low-income children.

I would have been out of touch, however, to think that all that was needed was for parents to do a better job of caring for their children. Our center was in a poor, inner-city neighborhood, where poverty, crime and a lack of adequate housing were undeniable influences for families. It was clear that parents wanted the best for their children, but their own personal histories and the social and material stressors weighing on them often made it really hard for them to protect themselves and their children. And this was happening in countless communities across the country.

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May 14 2012
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Healthier Moms, Stronger Babies

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health has designated May 13 to May 19 as National Women’s Health Week. It is designed to bring together communities, businesses, government, health organizations and others to promote women’s health. The goal in 2012 is to empower women to make their health a top priority. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Human Capital Blog is launching an occasional series on women’s health in conjunction with the week. This post is by Rebekah Gee, MD, MPH, RWJF Clinical Scholars alumna and an assistant professor of public health and obstetrics and gynecology at Louisiana State University (LSU). She is director of the Louisiana Birth Outcomes Initiative.

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Louisiana is a fantastic place to live. It’s one of the most culturally rich and enchanting places in the United States. The state, however, also faces some of the greatest challenges in our nation.

Louisiana has a long history of poverty, poor education, and social problems that affect the health of too many of its citizens. And for women—particularly African American women—the challenges are even greater. We are 49th in the nation in terms of overall birth outcomes, like infant prematurity and mortality, and we get failing grades on report cards that measure those indicators of health.

In 2010, Bruce Greenstein, Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH), recognized the importance of poor birth outcomes as a crucial public health issue—and named it his top priority. We were the first state in the nation to offer birth outcomes this kind of backing from our government officials. In November, 2010, we launched the Birth Outcomes Initiative, which I direct. It engages partners across the state—physicians, hospitals, clinics, nurses—and provides them with the best evidence and guiding principles to achieve change. We have made significant progress already.

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We are working with the state’s hospitals on maternity care quality improvements, including ending all medically unnecessary deliveries before 39 weeks gestation. We have partnered with 15 of the largest maternity hospitals to provide them with the support and resources to make this a reality. Now, every maternity hospital in the state (there are 58) has signed on to the 39-Week Initiative.

Soon, we will be publishing perinatal quality scores—available to the public—so hospitals and physicians are held accountable for outcomes. In our pioneer facilities, we have seen the rates of elective deliveries drop by half. Many facilities have had as much as a 30-percent drop in the number of babies who needed to go to the NICU. The efforts of the Birth Outcomes Initiative are improving lives day after day.

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