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Stigma and Barriers to Care: Conference Report

This Forum on Health and National Security, directed to addressing stigma and barriers to care, brought together a diverse group of leaders in order to expand our horizons on these issues of important national need in times of war, disaster and terrorism. The individuals represented national leaders, educators, researchers and health care planners across mental health, health care systems, military and disaster care and the specific issues of stigma and barriers to care. Our goal was for individuals who did not usually talk with each other or even know of each other’s work, to hear new perspectives and create a new vantage point on this difficult topic. We operated under the belief that if one only talks to people that you already know we cannot maximize our joint knowledge and opportunities. We hoped that those in attendance would leave with at least two new names of people who would be helpful and of interest in pursuing our needs to address stigma and barriers to care.

Our primary goal was to better understand the issues of stigma and barriers to care as they relate to the trajectory from illness, distress and health risk behaviors after war, disaster or terrorism to care and needed help. At that point the group could translate their understanding into action through recommendations. The work of the Forum was a series of presentations followed by thinking together. Our final discussions were to formulate a set of recommendations to capture the ideas generated. The recommendations were organized into the areas of research, education and training, leadership and intervention. We hope this volume communicates the important ideas and recommended actions from this distinguished group.