Improving Health Outcomes of Military Children Through Research and Policy Initiatives

Friday, 28 July 2017: 2:50 PM

Margaret C. Wilmoth, PhD
School of Nursing, LEwis School of Nursing & Health Professions, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA, USA
Alicia Gill Rossiter, DNP
College of Nursing, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL, USA

Approximately 2.2 mil­lion Active Duty, National Guard, and Reserve members have been tasked for upward of 3.3 million deployments since the onset of military action in Iraq and Afghanistan. Roughly 40,000 Active Duty servicemembers are married—58% of servicemembers have families and approximately 40% have at least two children. The majority of military children are in early and middle childhood—78% of the children of Active Duty parents are under the age of 11 years and 80% of reserve component children are under 15 years of age.

 With the increased operations tempo, the risk for abuse and neglect among military children has increased. Historically, the healthcare needs of military children have been unrecognized outside of military healthcare settings. Military children are at higher risk for abuse and neglect, substance use, and suicide when compared with non-military connected children; stress and depression related to parental deployment or post deployment physical/psychological injuries; behavior and academic issues secondary to emotional distress, frequents moves or a parental deployment; and anxiety that can lead to changes in appetite, disrupted sleep patterns, and impaired immune response which can impact overall physical and psychological health. Upwards of 33% of military children have experienced maltreatment and/or abuse. Sadly, at least 19,0 00 children have experienced the wounding of a parent and over 2,200 have experienced the death of a parent secondary to military service in Iraq or Afghanistan, which can have long-term physical and psychological health implications for military chil­dren.

Research and policy initiatives aimed at identify and decreasing the long-term effects of parental deployment, minimizing the physical and psychological sequelae, and identifying educational ramifications on chil­dren is almost nonexistent. This presentation will discuss the gaps in research and policy and provide guidance as to how to reduce barriers to access, decrease knowledge deficits of healthcare providers, and/or improve consistency in healthcare delivery to this unserved population that is the most vulnerable to aftermath of war—military children.