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SG's Corner
Vice Adm. Adam M. Robinson
U.S. Navy Surgeon General

Surgeon General's Corner: Navy Medicine: “Focus on the Family”

By Vice Adm. Adam M. Robinson, Jr., U.S. Navy Surgeon General

In recent months, the Defense Department has increased its focus on providing more support for the children of military families. I echo that call.  Since I became Surgeon General, I have made it a top priority to inculcate  a culture of patient and family-centered care across the Navy Medicine community.  By focusing on patients and their families, we ensure we provide environments in which the entire family can heal physically, mentally, and spiritually.  Families are a vital part of the care we provide. We need to ensure that we continue to integrate children’s needs in all we do. We already have a robust family-centered program in place, a part of which I’d like to highlight this month. In many ways, we have led the military’s efforts on family readiness. From our Family Practice Residency training programs to Project FOCUS (Families OverComing Under Stress), we put  Sailors, Marines, and their families at the forefront of our attention. When Sailors and Marines know that we are providing world class care for their children, especially while they are deployed, they have the assurance they need and deserve to focus on their mission.

In January 2009, BUMED Family Programs Division was created under the Deployment Heath Directorate in the Wounded, Ill, and Injured Warrior Support Command of BUMED and now oversees FOCUS training. In June 2009, the Office of the Secretary of Defense Child and Family policy praised FOCUS as a best practice program and requested the support of BUMED to expand the program to select Army and Air Force sites for services. 

FOCUS is an eight-week, skill-based, trainer-led intervention that addresses difficulties families may have when facing the challenges of multiple deployments, and parental combat-related  psychological and physical health problems. The program provides structured activities to bridge gaps in shared family understanding that may follow stressful experiences and separations. FOCUS uses family training techniques to highlight areas of strength and resilience in the family and promote family growth to help address daily challenges.

FOCUS develops families through a shared understanding of how their own deployment experience creates a unique story to enhance resiliency and prepare for the next deployment. The program includes the entire family and is tailored to suit its specific needs. FOCUS is offered in several formats: family consultations, family level training, small group training, and workshops. FOCUS also builds strong connections with other military family providers to support a network of care for families.

Navy Medicine’s Core Concept of Care is patient and family-centered to ensure patient satisfaction, focusing on increased access, coordination of services and safety, while recognizing the vital importance of the family. We serve our personnel and their families throughout a patient’s treatment cycle and every aspect of medicine in the continuum of care to provide a seamless transition and reintegration for our Wounded Warriors. Part of that mission includes our family support programs to build paths to restoration, to maximize patient and family empowerment, and create comprehensive healing environments, especially for children who may be stressed due to a parent’s frequent deployments. 

FOCUS is showing remarkable results. Since its inception, thousands of family members and providers have reached out to FOCUS. Notably, program participation has resulted in significant increases in family and child positive coping and significant reductions in parent and child distress over time, suggesting longer-term benefits for military family wellness. Navy Medicine will do whatever it takes to deliver the highest quality care that is centered not just around the patient, but also around the family. 
It is my honor to represent you as your Surgeon General. Thank you for everything you do, but most of all thank you for your service.