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Sesame Street supports military families with health care transitions

Image of Sesame Street character comforts a military child during a doctor visit. . Click to open a larger version of the image. Visit the new Transitions in Health Care section on the Sesame Street for Military Families website.

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Children's Health

A permanent change of station (PCS) brings a myriad of changes to a military family’s life.

In addition to a new role for the service member, a new home, a new base, and a new school, they also have the need of finding new health care providers for everyone. Changing to a new doctor or dentist can be a confusing, and even scary, experience for the younger members of a family.

Sesame Street for Military Families in partnership with the Defense Health Agency will now help make the move to a new health care provider easier and less stressful for parents and children with the Sept. 15 launch of its new Transitions in Health Care topic section.

“The Defense Health Agency is committed to providing the best health care to our service members and their families,” said Dr. Kelly Blasko, mHealth lead for the Defense Health Agency’s Connected Health branch. “By collaborating with Sesame Workshop and developing Sesame Street for Military Families, we have developed health care resources, like Transitions in Health Care, for parents, providers, and caregivers. These resources enable us to reach out to the youngest members of our military community to ensure they have what they need to cope with military life.”

The new Sesame Street for Military Families Transitions in Health Care topic section provides fun and valuable digital health tools to help kids through feelings of stress and anxiety that may be associated with a PCS. The new “Visiting the Doctor” online game provides an interactive experience allowing kids to virtually walk through a doctor visit, while creating opportunities for parents to provide answers to their child’s questions. Videos and printable coloring and activity pages give military kids a look into the doctor or dentist office and allow them a way to engage with what they will see and do during an upcoming visit. Articles for parents also provide tips on how to support children in positive and encouraging ways.

“Caregivers are already the best advocates for their families’ health; when it’s time to relocate and transition their children’s health care, we want to empower them every step of the way,” said Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, Sesame Workshop’s senior vice president, U.S. Social Impact.

A new provider can also be vital in making the transition to a new health care setting smooth for new patients.

“Our Military Health System providers can play a key role in helping ease the transition of military children to a new provider,” Blasko said. “Their knowledge, coupled with understanding of the challenges experienced during a PCS, can help reduce the stress and anxiety felt by children during this change, and ultimately make the experience more pleasant.”

The Transitions in Health Care topic section also delivers provider-focused tools to help understand and support young patients. Providers wishing to incorporate this content into their practice can request a live webinar or view a pre-recorded version on the media-based materials. The new printable materials are also the perfect resources to provide prior to visits or for use in waiting rooms.

The recent Defense Health Board report on Pediatric Health Care Services identified specific effects a PCS has on the health care of military children. The Transitions in Health Care section emerged from an existing partnership between the DHA and Sesame Workshop in response to the needs identified in the DHB report. Advisors were consulted from across the Department of Defense community and from within the DHA. Input from health care providers and military families helped identify the challenges faced when looking for a new health care team – and what information would help families in addressing them.

“Sesame Workshop has done an excellent job of leveraging our partnership to combine their experiences and support of young children with the knowledge of our MHS providers to deliver valuable resources that support positive experiences for military children during transitions in health care,” Blasko said.

Sesame Street for Military Families Transitions in Health Care provides a central resource for military parents, children, and the providers that care for them to aid in the smooth transition of military kids to new care providers. Check it out at: http://www.sesamestreetformilitaryfamilies.org/topic/transitions-in-healthcare.

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