Feature

A patient grappling with a diabetes diagnosis might get first-rate guidance on nutrition and lifestyle changes from her physician, nutritionist and psychologist team, but that might not be enough, says family therapist Larry Mauksch, of the University of Washington. "If the person who is doing most of the cooking at home isn't also on board, it's all a bit of a sand hill," says Mauksch. Spouses, children and other family members often play a crucial — and sometimes overlooked — role in a patient's care.

To promote such all-in-the-family involvement, Mauksch and Colleen Fogarty, MD, MSc, are seeking more articles on ways to work more effectively with families as the incoming co-editors of Families, Systems, & Health, a multidisciplinary journal that attracts readers and contributors from all corners of medical and mental health care. The two officially take the reins of the journal in September.

"The journal historically has been successful in talking about systems design and health, but getting the family focus in there has been harder because there are lots of barriers to family involvement," says Mauksch. Those barriers include the difficulty of scheduling appointments that bring family members together with a patient's health-care teams, he says.

Both editors come to the journal from the front lines of primary care. Fogarty is a family physician at Anthony L. Jordan/Brown Square Community Health Center in Rochester, N.Y., trained in biostatistics and epidemiology. She is also an associate professor in the department of family medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center. Mauksch is a family therapist and senior lecturer in the department of family medicine at the University of Washington, who has worked alongside primary-care physicians for more than 30 years. He specializes in teaching health-care professionals how to communicate with patients, manage their time and recognize the signs of mental illness.

As the editors see it, the journal should also be the premier information source on how primary-care practices can become patient-centered medical homes as directed by the Affordable Care Act, and on how health-care teams can work together more effectively, including presenting case studies on what doesn't work. Now more than ever, physicians are eager to improve how they collaborate with mental health providers, says Fogarty.

"In practice, we recognize that mental health is important in our patients," says Fogarty. "We need these colleagues and we need the systems that support these colleagues."

Readers also need more guidance on helping patients who consume the most health-care dollars: Adults struggling with multiple illnesses, combined with mental health and substance abuse problems, say the editors.

The pair will also cultivate the journal's creative side. In addition to publishing traditional research and case studies, Families, Systems, & Health also includes 55-word stories and poems by health-care professionals. These creative pieces offer "a little window" into how complex and emotional providing health care is, says Fogarty, who edits the section. Such writing helps different specialty areas learn from each other's challenges, she says.

"It's a way to represent a different viewpoint to some of the empirical findings in publications," adds Fogarty. "We as a field need all of these multiple ways of looking at health care."

Submit a manuscript to Families, Systems, & Health.