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A unique lifestyle with unique needs

Dr. Heidi Cramm

It can be a surprise when people learn that, although military personnel have their healthcare needs organized by the federal government, their families must find their own physicians and resources, often re-navigating the system with each relocation.

Heidi Cramm, an assistant professor and researcher in the School of Rehabilitation Therapy at Queen’s, has received a grant to fund her research into this issue from the Health Research Foundation. Along with her co-principal investigator Dr. Sarosh Khalid-Khan and an interprofessional team from Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Dr. Cramm will identify, describe, and validate the Canadian perspective on mental health issues and the needs of children growing up in military families.

“I’m hoping this research will ultimately help strengthen the healthcare system’s capacity to recognize and address the mental health needs of children growing up military families – these children may have unique vulnerabilities, but have historically been neglected by researchers,” says Dr. Cramm, who is also the Head of Knowledge Translation for the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research. “This work will form the essential foundation for the development of new programs and policies to reduce health inequities children of military families may be experiencing and improve their health outcomes.”

With $150,000 awarded for three years, Dr. Cramm’s research will take place in three phases. Phase one will be a series of in-depth qualitative interviews which will build on her previous research on this topic to provide a Canadian perspective; phase two will include key stakeholder focus groups on some targeted Canadian military bases, and a survey distributed to screen for the presence of mental health issues and their impact; finally, phase three will be an analysis of the research findings in order to develop recommendations for programs and toolkits targeted at healthcare practitioners, decision makers, and policy makers.

“The National Defence and Canadian Forces Ombudsman’s 2013 report on the well-being of Canada’s military families expressed concern that there is little known about Canadian military families from a Canadian context and that some children are ‘paying a price for their parents’ service to the nation,’” says Dr. Cramm. “As approximately 95 per cent of the literature on children from military families is based on American families, this study will lay a Canadian foundation of research on this special and deserving population with such unique needs and system navigation issues.”

For more information on the Rx&D's Health Research Foundation, please follow this link