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Rocky and Elmo want providers to "Watch. Ask. Share."

Defense Health Agency Director Vice Admiral Raquel “Rocky” Bono joined Sesame Street’s Elmo to record a welcome video for the new provider section of the Sesame Street for Military Families website. (Photo by MHS Communications) Defense Health Agency Director Vice Admiral Raquel “Rocky” Bono joined Sesame Street’s Elmo to record a welcome video for the new provider section of the Sesame Street for Military Families website. (Photo by MHS Communications)

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Health care providers now have exciting new resources to help them work with patients from military families, thanks to research-based content on the Sesame Street for Military Families website. In a video on the new provider section, Vice Adm. Raquel Bono welcomes health care providers to the website while standing beside Sesame Street’s Elmo.  Bono, director of the Defense Health Agency, introduces herself as “Rocky” and says she is a military leader, surgeon, and parent.   

“We are thrilled to share with you what Sesame Street has developed from over 10 years of research with military families,” said Bono. “This section of Sesame Street for Military Families helps providers like you engage with the families you serve.”

Topics are broken into three steps Bono and Elmo call, “Watch. Ask. Share.” The idea is for providers to watch the short videos and use what they learn to ask military patients about relevant issues in their lives. They can share the website and downloadable kid-friendly handouts with their patients.

“Although my children are grown now,” Bono said, “I would have loved resources like this back when I deployed, or when we were going through the countless moves and other life events that are a part of military life.”

Many resources on the website guide parents in general, according to Kelly Blasko, psychologist and program lead at DHA. Blasko said the provider section is organized with a cultural component, examples of questions for use by providers, and includes “parenting tips known to be helpful to military families.”

Blasko worked with Sesame Street to identify resources and surveyed over 100 providers about the kind of information they would find useful. Short videos feature military parents and spouses discussing their deployments, homecomings, and relocations.

“What's really nice about Sesame Street is they are experts at child education, child development, and media,” said Blasko, who added that when parents and children watch videos together and discuss them afterward, it becomes a collaborative experience.

According to Blasko, offering resources and information about military culture is exactly what surveyed providers wanted so they could help military parents and children build resilience for good health and well-being.

“We know military family life involves many transitions, large and small,” said Blasko. “And change can be stressful for everyone. We found health care providers are willing to watch the short videos and like these resources.”

Printable handouts with Sesame Street characters double as tips for families and coloring pages for children. All materials are available in English and Spanish. A free shortcut app to the Sesame Street for Military Families website is available for Android and iOS devices from iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon for Kindle Fire.

“Having providers share these resources with parents can help them with difficult conversations, and in turn, can improve the overall family functioning,” Blasko said. “When parents are more confident in their parenting, it really influences their health positively and is reflected in their child. Well-being is interconnected.”

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