April 17, 2024

Researchers advocate for increased investment in bereavement care to address growing public health crisis

The impact of bereavement on public health is well-documented, with bereaved individuals facing a higher risk of various adverse outcomes such as mental health issues, decreased quality of life, neglect of healthcare needs, as well as an increased risk of diseases like cancer, heart disease, suicide, and premature death. In a recent publication in The Lancet Public Health, researchers have issued a compelling call for more significant investment in providing support for individuals experiencing grief.

The researchers stress the urgent need for both community and institutional levels to prioritize the establishment of support services for those dealing with bereavement-related suffering. They highlight that the increased mortality rates worldwide due to factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic, suicide, drug overdose, homicide, armed conflict, and terrorism have heightened the necessity for national and global frameworks to enhance the availability of sustainable and accessible bereavement care. Despite the escalating crisis in public health, the current investment in bereavement support services at both national and global levels is deemed insufficient, according to the researchers from Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and their collaborators.

The proposed model of transitional care emphasizes the incorporation of bereavement support services within healthcare institutions to ensure ongoing family-centered care and strengthen community-based support through the development of compassionate communities and a workforce well-versed in dealing with grief. The researchers aim to bridge the gap between health systems and the community to provide meaningful support to individuals navigating through grief.

The Center for the Advancement of Bereavement Care at Sylvester is championing this model of transitional care, with Wendy G. Lichtenthal, Ph.D., FT, FAPOS, the center’s Founding Director and an associate professor at the Miller School, underlining the necessity for a change in perspective regarding bereavement care within the healthcare sector. The center’s unique emphasis on bereavement science strives to develop care approaches that are not only based on research but are also community-engaged.

Palliative care, which seeks to offer a comprehensive approach to alleviate suffering for terminally ill patients and their families, is identified as a critical area requiring improvement by the researchers. They reference reports from The Lancet Commissions stressing the need for better infrastructure for bereavement care delivery, with a call to prioritize the social determinants of death, dying, and grief.

Lichtenthal highlighted the essential role of bereavement care following palliative care, both in theory and in practice, but pointed out that bereavement care often suffers from inadequate resources and disparities in access. The establishment of the Center for the Advancement of Bereavement Care aims to address these issues by setting a global example for similar health organizations. By implementing the recommendations outlined in the paper, the researchers hope to cultivate a workforce that is sensitive to bereavement and grief, along with fostering compassionate communities and health systems that prioritize bereavement care as an integral component of ethical healthcare.

The publication serves as a call to action for healthcare institutions to extend their care beyond patient deaths by investing in the development of innovative bereavement care centers like the one pioneered by Sylvester.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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