The Defence Minister along with the College of Family Physicians of Canada and the Canadian Military and Veteran Families Leadership Circle (Vanier Institute) released last week a new resource, a six pages booklet, to better inform and provide advice to physicians dealing with military families.
Russell Mann, a retired Colonel and Special Advisor to the Vanier Institute of the Family explained, “We strongly believe that raising awareness to the complex military lifestyle and provide an education to physicians on the realities of military families when it comes to health care is key to insure better practices and services for all. Our new resource provides concrete advice and reinforces the services that exist for military families.”
The resource, available online, will allow families to self-advocate by bringing it in to their current family physician as well as for future physicians at their next locations. The advice included in the booklet are numerous and all directed towards a better understanding of specific needs of military families across the country.
“We suggest that physicians open a fast-track protocol for military families, that they adapt their patient questionnaire to the specific realities of our lifestyle (number of moves, locations, etc.), that they waive fees for medical records, that preventive cares for spouses be reinforced and many more,” added Mann.
“By making professionals more aware of the kind of cares that military families need, how they access it, the barriers created by frequent move and the general structure of health care in Canada as well as the specific demographics they represent, we believe physicians can best answer the needs of their military-affiliated patients and deal with the situation in a more mindful manner,” he concluded.
The resource was created by CEOs, community leaders, private corporations as well as government officials and representatives from non-profit organizations. It was also revised by families themselves to ensure it really does represent the realities they face. The College of Family Physicians is very pleased with the end result.
“We are very happy with this uniquely Canadian resource and since the launch this past Wednesday, we have been receiving a lot of positive feedback already. The resource is nationally relevant, with great practical tips on how to better integrate military families into their practice. It is easily digestible for physicians to use in their everyday practice. This is a starting point, and we have committed to do more collaborative work on this issue,” said Gunita Mitera, Director of Program and Practice Support with the CFPC.
Defence Minister Harjit S. Sajjan is also satisfied with the movement noting in a press release, “I applaud the commitment of the partners who have collaborated to produce this new resource. Sharing their collective skills and expertise makes a real difference. We depend on the women and men of our Canadian Armed Forces to defend and protect Canadians. It is important that they, and their families, are supported with the health care services needed for active, productive lives.”
This resource is the first concrete action taken by the Leadership Circle in what they have called the “Work With” series. The panel is hoping to secure the funds to engage with the mental health and health care professionals, child care workers and teachers for future publications.
Current statistics from Family Physicians Working with Military Families:
• 44% of Canadian Armed Forces spouses find it extremely difficult to re-establish medical services after relocation (CAFFRT, 2016)
• 25% of military spouses did not receive needed health care in the past year, mainly due to long wait times (Wang, Aitken & CAFFRT, 2016)
• 24% of military spouses reported that they don’t have a family physician for themselves; 17% did not have a family physician for their children (compared to the Canadian average of 15.5%)
• 1 in 6 military members reports symptoms of at least one mental health disorder (Pearson, Zamorski & Janz, 2014)