Boosting trust in health care 

12/1/2010 

In Army medicine, we focus on sustaining holistic health, in addition to providing health care, said Lt. Gen. Eric B. Schoomaker, Army surgeon general, at the third Military Family Forum Oct. 27 held during the Association of the United States Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition. 

Schoomaker pledged to deliver the highest quality evidence-based medical treatment over the long run to soldiers and their families, with an emphasis on access and continuity, despite facing new challenges that have arisen from the current conflict. Soldiers, who could not have been saved in previous wars, now survive grievous wounds and injuries. 

Currently, under Army care, there are 1,200 amputees, 20 percent of whom are multiple amputees, he said.  Two-hundred of them remain in uniform, and 40 have returned to combat.  Also, approximately 9,900 soldiers are wounded, ill or injured at present. 

"I am a patient in this system," Schoomaker said about his own stake in and commitment to the Army Medicine Healthcare Covenant. 

His goal is to inspire trust in military health care. Overall, he reported 92 percent satisfaction with Army health care, well above the civilian satisfaction rate of 88 percent.

Maj. Gen. Douglas L. Carver, Army chief of chaplains, and Scott Stanley, Denver University research professor, spoke about the spiritual and emotional health of soldiers and their families.

Spiritual resiliency generates better emotional health, well-being, marital stability, social support, reduces dependency on alcohol and drugs and decreases delinquency and crime, Carver said.  He urged members of the audience to read "Soul Cravings" by Erwin Raphael McManus to develop their own spiritual health.

The Army has several initiatives underway to promote and assess spiritual resiliency.  The first is Comprehensive Soldier Fitness, in particular, the five modules targeting spiritual fitness.  The Army is also in the midst of a long-term study to examine the effects of spiritual fitness on soldiers who deploy. 

Moreover, the Army continues to fully support its very popular Strong Bonds program that is not only available to married couples, but also to single individuals and other family members. 

Stanley presented the key findings to date of the Army Marriage Project, a large-scale, multi-year study funded by the National Institute of Health.  Married couples in the study take part in a Strong Bonds Prevention and Relationship Enrichment Program (PREP) in which the both soldier and spouse are assessed. 

To date, the results of the study have been encouraging. Couples that participate in the program experience half the divorce rate of those who do not, and the program has the greatest impact on the couples that are at higher risk of divorce.

 Noel Meador, executive director of Stronger Families, described the demonstration project, Oxygen for Your Relationships, that has been implemented with nine brigades for over 200 families. 

The program uses relationship assessments, intensive training sessions, small groups and an online support network to help couples strengthen their commitment. 

Response to the project has been overwhelmingly favorable. Meandor’s contact info is noel.meador@strongerfamilies.org or (425) 679-5671, Ext. 101.

The forum’s final speaker was Hal Runkel, founder of The Screamfree Institute.  He discussed both screamfree parenting and marriage.  The goal of the screamfree approach in both types of relationships is to remain calm.

Runkel compared this approach to the leadership qualities of the best soldiers who have the ability to stay quiet and focused in chaotic situations.  Runkel’s contact info is hal@screamfree.com