Iowa has experienced a number of child and teen deaths in recent years. In 2008, Iowa experienced record flooding that displaced thousands and two Iowans died in the flooding. That same year, nine people died when a tornado struck two small Iowa towns, Parkersburg and New Harford. Still recovering from that disaster, Parkersburg was again struck by tragedy in 2009 when a 24-year-old former football player mortally shot the high school football coach in a locker room filled with 20 current students. In October 2011, a fourteen-year-old girl died while returning home from a high school track team practice in a car driven by a fellow team member. In April this year, bullying was cited as a factor in the suicide of a 14-year-old boy from Primghar, Iowa.
While all these deaths are tragic and would necessitate bereavement counseling and support, the particular circumstances of each are quite different. Pediatricians are often called upon in these situations, either in the immediate aftermath of an unexpected death or some time shortly thereafter, when asked to address the long-term health and wellness of the survivors who are left to cope with the loss of a loved one. Because of the number of tragedies in Iowa’s recent history, and the way these deaths impact rural Iowa communities, Iowa pediatricians, health care providers, and educators have expressed a need for bereavement training so as to best care for their patients, their families, and their communities.
In 2013, Iowa AAP received funding from the New York Life Foundation for the Pediatric Bereavement Lectureship Program. With that funding, Iowa AAP co-sponsored the Protecting Our Children: Youth and Violence conference, featuring Dr. David Schonfeld as the Grant Rounds speaker. Dr. Schonfeld is an internationally known expert on pediatric bereavement who has provided consultation and training in the aftermath of a number of school crisis events and disasters, including the shootings in Newtown, CT, Aurora, CO and Chardon, OH; flooding from Hurricanes Sandy, Katrina, and Ike; tornadoes in Joplin, MO and Alabama; and the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan, China.
Additional resources on disaster preparedness and pediatric bereavement can be found at the resources below.