AAFP Board Chair Speaks Up at White House Event on Supporting Military Families' Health

Heim Volunteers to Coordinate Resources

March 30, 2011 03:55 pm James Arvantes Washington –

Although increasing numbers of veterans who have seen active combat and their family members are seeking health care, there is a gap in knowledge among physicians and other health care providers about how to treat members of the military and their families, according to AAFP Board Chair Lori Heim, M.D., of Vass, N.C.

Heim, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, participated in a March 29 White House meeting on enhancing the psychological health of military families that was convened by the Office of the First Lady and the Office of the Vice President. During the meeting, which included representatives from the physician and nursing communities, physician assistant organizations, mental health groups and various support groups, Heim told attendees that physicians and other health care professionals often do not know what to screen for in their military patients or what to do after a problem or condition is identified.

The White House is expected to announce an initiative within the next month on what communities can do to support military families(www.whitehouse.gov), and Heim noted that the meeting itself should serve as a catalyst to help educate physicians and other health care professionals about how to care for military families.

"If family physicians are not helping to identify these issues, then we are really not doing all we can to help those families," she said.

Heim told meeting participants that there are screening tools available that can be used effectively within primary care offices, and she volunteered to review and collate existing materials for the group. The goal is not to "reinvent the wheel," she said.

"We need to make sure our message is consistent and inviting," said Heim. "There is actually a plethora of different websites. But we don't want to add to the confusion of information. We want to make sure that it is aligned and accurate and useful for both family members and for educating the various levels of practitioners."