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The Connections Between Marriage, Relationships, and Health

Young African American Couple - Close UpThe health benefits of marriage have been much commented on and are often misunderstood. The significance of the growing body of evidence establishing the connections is now becoming clearer. A new series of NHMRC publications address these issues in depth and is an invaluable and reliable resource for health researchers, healthcare professionals and health policy analysts and advocates. These publications comprise a unique compilation and summary of a growing body of research that has important implications for health care programs, practice, and policy.

“I’m Not Her Family Caregiver, I’m Her Husband!”

Posted by Theodora Ooms and Jana Staton on the Growing MedFT blog on 7/3/2012.
Too often couplehood is invisible to health care practitioners and ignored in current health care reform discussions. This blog points out the important differences between spousal and family caregiving and suggests ways to integrate a couple perspective in health care delivery.

Marriage and Relationship Factors in Health: Implications for Improving Health Care Quality and Reducing Costs

by Jana Staton PhD & Theodora Ooms, MSW. NHMRC Issue Brief. September 2011 (13 pp.)

This brief summarizes the key findings and recommendations of a Wingspread conference of leading marriage and health scholars and practitioners. The broad consensus was that the extensive and growing body of research demonstrates a strong link between relationship quality and health outcomes for children, adults, and the elderly. The findings are sufficiently compelling to warrant attention from health care providers and others, and to learn what they and others can do to strengthen and support relationship connections in the course of providing health care. Emerging tools, practices, and program strategies are being tested which have the potential to strengthen current efforts to improve patient care, reduce the costs of health care, and increase the effectiveness of public health education if widely implemented.

Something Important Is Going On Here! Making Connections Between Marriage, Relationship Quality, and Health

by Jana Staton PhD & Theodora Ooms, MSW.

Wingspread Conference Final Report and Recommendations. September 2011 (60 pp). This report details the key research lessons, and identifies gaps and limitations that could be addressed in part by piggybacking on studies already underway. Described are new demonstrations and approaches integrating relationship education into health settings that target especially vulnerable populations (patients with chronic illness, low-income new parents, and youth).

Participants recommended that advocates for couple and family-centered health, father involvement, family caregiving, and domestic violence prevention, need to work together and take advantage of current opportunities and innovations aimed at improving health care coordination, quality, and reducing costs. The report ends by recommending educating health care professionals regarding how fostering and supporting healthy relationships can promote health and wellbeing, and including this information into public health education activities at national, state, and local levels.

What Works in Marriage and Relationship Education? A Review of Lessons learned with a Focus on Low Income Couples

by Alan Hawkins and Theodora Ooms

The authors summarize the lessons learned to-date about how to design and deliver marriage and relationship education (MRE) programs effectively to diverse populations. The Brief then reviews the evidence from rigorous evaluations of a handful of MRE programs, especially those that serve disadvantaged couples, and finds encouraging, modest effects on improving low-income couples’ relationships, encouraging father engagement, and reducing divorce. The brief identifies gaps in the research, and discusses a number of potentially positive direct and indirect effects of MRE activities on adults and children that have not yet been—and may not be able to be—measured.

Strengthening FamiliesHealthy Marriage and Relationship Programs: A Promising Strategy for Strengthening Families

by Mary Myrick, Theodora Ooms, and Patrick Patterson

This brief addresses three questions: Why should strengthening marriage and relationships be on the public agenda? Do we know how to deliver healthy marriage and relationship education services on a large scale, especially to economically disadvantaged populations? Do we know whether these programs work?

Where do “Domestic Violence” Statistics Come From and Why Do They Vary So Much?

by Michael Johnson

DV and HM advocates often appear to contradict each other when they report statistics on the levels and nature of intimate partner conflict. This research brief helps clarify some of the misunderstandings, errors, and apparent contradictions, which derive from treating domestic violence as a single phenomenon. It discusses the survey biases associated with collecting information about violence in the home and the sampling errors regarding agency data. The author relates these issues to the different types of intimate partner violence that scholars have begun to identify over the past decade. The brief was initially prepared for a conference co-sponsored by the NHMRC and the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence (NRCDV) on May 13-14, 2009, at the Airlie Conference Center.

Making Distinctions Between Different Types of Intimate Partner Violence: A Preliminary Guide

by Theodora Ooms, Rachel Derrington, Michael Johnson, Anne Menard, and Scott Stanley

This guide aims to provide healthy marriage and domestic violence practitioners with a clear understanding of different types of intimate partner violence as identified by leading researchers, as well as what gaps remain in our knowledge. It discusses a number of difficult and complex dilemmas practitioners face in trying to make these distinctions and tailor appropriate interventions, and suggests some strategies that are currently being tried by different types of marriage and relationship education (MRE) programs.