Category Archives: Military

Aug 14 2012

Faces of Public Health: Elizabeth Clark on Social Workers and Military Mental Health


Faces of Public Health is a recurring editorial series on NewPublicHealth featuring individuals working on the front lines of public health and helping keep people healthy and safe.

Returning veterans and their families continue to face mental health problems linked to injuries, time away from loved ones and the stress of being at war. Military suicides are at an all-time high; recent reports show a heartbreaking one suicide a day since the beginning of 2012.

The Department of Defense and mental health professional organizations are actively promoting and creating initiatives to help service personnel, veterans and their family. A new program just announced by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) will add hundreds of thousands of trained personnel for the military-affiliated individuals keenly in need. The NASW military program will create free continuing education opportunities for all social workers, regardless of practice area or focus, on the critical issues related to the care, culture and lifestyle of military personnel, veterans and military families. According to the NASW, the initiative adds more than 650,000 social workers to the ranks of mental health professionals trained to meet the needs of service men and women, veterans and military families.

Social workers are hardly new to the military. According to the NASW, social workers have been serving veterans since 1926, when the first social work program was established in the Veterans Bureau (now the Department of Veterans Affairs). Currently, the VA is the largest employer of master’s-degreed social workers in the nation with over 9,000 social workers. Social workers also serve in and work for the Air Force, Army and Navy in clinical, administrative and research posts.

NewPublicHealth recently spoke with Elizabeth Clark, PhD, ACSW, MPH, executive director of the association, about the mental health needs of military personnel, veterans and families and the critical help social workers can provide.

NewPublicHealth: Why are social workers such an important component to the mental health professional needs of the military?

Elizabeth Clark: There are more social workers than psychiatrists and psychologists and nurse practitioners clinically trained to work in mental health, combined. We have a tremendous workforce and they’re all over the country, in communities across the United States.

NPH: Are mental health issues of service personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan different from issues returning military members faced previously?

Read More

Jun 11 2012

Public Health News Roundup: June 11

United Health to Keep New Health Provisions Regardless of Supreme Court Ruling on Affordable Care Act

Reuters is reporting that UnitedHealth Group, a major U.S. health insurer, has announced it would retain new health coverage rules—such as dropping co-pays for some preventive care—regardless of how the Supreme Court rules on the legislation. The Court is expected to rule this month. Read more on access to health care.

USDA Promotes Free Summer Food Service this Week

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is holding its second annual Summer Food Service Program Week June 11 through June 15 to promote awareness of summer food programs for millions of children who typically eat free or low cost breakfast and lunch at school during the school year.

In partnership with the advocacy group WhyHunger, USDA has developed downloadable Public Service Announcements to inform parents and guardians about summer meals sites for school-age children. To find a site in your community, call 1-866-3-HUNGRY (1-866-348-6479or 1-877-8-HAMBRE (1-877-842-6273.) Read more on community health.

Extreme Rest Very Soon After Concussion May Prevent Long Term Symptoms in Some Patients

A new study in the Journal of Pediatrics finds that taking a week off from nearly all mental and physical activity within a week after a concussion may lead to fewer symptoms, such as headaches, and better mental performance, months after the injury.

The researchers found that study participants who rested physically and mentally soon after their injuries had much improved symptoms compared with concussion patients who waited weeks to months before they started resting their bodies and brains, such as no socializing, no computer, no TV and no phone use. Read more on injury prevention.

Rise in Military Suicides Reported

The Associated Press (AP) is reporting that there have been 154 military suicides in the first 155 days of 2012, a higher number than military members killed in action in Afghanistan, based on Pentagon statistics the AP obtained. Among possible explanations: combat exposure, post-traumatic stress, misuse of prescription medications and personal financial problems. The AP reports that multiple deployments is a risk factor for suicide, but that a large number of suicides have been among soldiers who were never deployed. The number of suicides at this time last year was 130. The AP also reports that the Pentagon recently established a Defense Suicide Prevention Office. Read more on military health.

May 29 2012

Public Health News Roundup: May 29

Study: Pandemic Flu Vaccine Helps Prevent Stillborn, Preterm Babies

Pregnant women who received a vaccine against H1N1 during the pandemic were much less likely to have babies who were still born, pre-term or small for gestational age. Researchers at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute in Canada reviewed data on over 55,000 babies born during the pandemic. Their research was published in the American Journal of Health. The study found no adverse events from the vaccine for either the mothers or the babies and will be continuing to follow the babies long-term. Read more on maternal and infant health.

Dermatology Academy Awards Grants for Shade Structures to Help Improve Sun Protection

The American Academy of Dermatology has awarded 18 new grants for the purchase of shade structures to organizations that serve kids age 18 and younger, including elementary schools, a day care program, the city of Cloquet (Minn.) Park Commission and the Florida Disabled Outdoors Association. Since 2000, the Academy has awarded more than 264 shade structure grants, which currently protect over half a million people. The grants are funded by contributions from Academy members. Grants are available for permanent shade structures over outdoor locations that are not protected from the sun, such as playgrounds, pools and eating areas. Read more on cancer prevention.

Almost Half of Current Veterans Seeking Disability Benefits

The Associated Press (AP) is reporting that 45 percent of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are filing for mental health or medical health benefits for injuries related to their service. According to the AP, that more than doubles the estimate of 21 percent who filed such claims after the Gulf War in the early 1990s. Read more on military health.

May 8 2012

Public Health News Roundup: May 8

Required Vaccines for School Entry Improves Coverage Rates for Pre-Teens

Pre-teens living in states that require vaccinations for incoming middle school students are more likely to be immunized than those in states that simply require parents to receive information about the vaccines, according to a study in Pediatrics.

Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reviewed school entry requirements in all 50 states and the District of Columbia for the 2008-2009 school years and compared them to adolescent vaccination rates for three vaccines: TdaP, meningitis and HPV. Compared to states with no requirements, vaccination coverage was significantly higher for the meningitis (71 percent versus 53 percent) and TdaP (80 percent versus 70 percent) vaccines.

Read more on vaccines

National Dialogue Begins on Improving Transportation Access for Active, Wounded and Veteran Military Members, and Families

The Department of Transportation has announced a month-long web-based dialogue May 7 to June 8, to help facilitate discussion about local transportation needs, challenges and opportunities facing military veterans, wounded service people and military service members and their families. Military families, veterans and organizations that support them are invited to participate in the discussion to create options to improve access to transportation. Registered participants will be able to offer an idea, a comment or vote on ideas they see on the site. A public report will be issued after the dialogue period ends.

Read more on military health issues.

Dog Food Likely Tainted with Salmonella Linked to Human Illnesses

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting that at least sixteen people have been sickened by dry dog food made by Diamond Pet Foods that may be tainted by salmonella. Humans may have become infected by touching the food or a pet that ate the food. The company has recalled the products. CDC is advising that:

  • Consumers should check their homes for recalled dog food products and discard them promptly. Contact Diamond Pet Foods for more information at (800) 442-0402 or
  • Follow tips listed on Salmonella from Dry Pet Food and Treats to help prevent an infection with Salmonella from handling dry pet food and treats.
  • People who think they might have become ill after contact with dry pet food or with an animal that has eaten dry pet food should consult their health care providers. For sick animals, contact your veterinary-care providers.

Read more on salmonella

Apr 24 2012

Public Health News Roundup: April 24

Stricter Seat Belt Laws Push Teens to Buckle Up

Teen drivers and passengers are more likely to use seat belts in states with "click it or ticket" laws, according to a new study in the American Journal of Public Health. These laws, also known as primary enforcement laws, allow police to stop and ticket drivers for not wearing a seat belt. Under a secondary law, police can only ticket drivers not buckled up if they are stopped for some other reason, such as speeding.

The study found that in states with secondary laws teens were 12 percent less likely to wear a seat belt when driving and 15 percent less likely to do so as a passenger than teens in states with primary laws. Read more on public health law.

Current Bullying Prevention Programs may not Thwart Cyberbullying

A new study by researchers at the University of British Columbia found that a survey of 17,000 Canadian students in grades 8 to 12 showed that 25 to 30 percent admitted to cyberbullying, while only twelve percent said they had participated in schoolyard bullying. The researchers say that indicates that current prevention programs may not be sufficient to protect kids from online bullying. Read more on violence prevention.

Killing in Wartime Linked to Later Suicidal Thoughts

Researchers analyzing data from a survey of Vietnam War veterans have found that those with more killing experiences were twice as likely to have suicidal thoughts as those with fewer or no experiences of killing.

The researchers, who published their findings in the journal Depression and Anxiety, say the association between killing and suicidal thoughts remained even after adjusting for variables such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, substance use disorders and combat exposure.

"We want clinicians and suicide prevention coordinators to be aware that in analyzing a veteran's risk of suicide, killing in combat is an additional factor that they may or may not be aware of,” says Shira Maguen, PhD, the study’s lead researcher. Read more on military health.

Apr 20 2012

Public Health News Roundup: April 20

2011 Worst Year for Measles in 15 Years

A new Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that there were 222 cases and 17 outbreaks of measles in the United States last year—more than four times the usual annual rate, and the highest number of reported cases of measles in the nation in the last fifteen years. In the ten years between 2001 and 2011, an average of 60 cases and four outbreaks were reported each year.

Most of the Measles cases in 2011 were in people who had traveled abroad, half to Europe where there have been significant measles outbreaks in the last few years. A significant number of those who developed measles last year were between the ages of 16 months and 19 years and eligible to be vaccinated against measles, but had not been vaccinated because of philosophical, religious or personal exemptions. Read the latest infectious disease news.

New Diabetes Guidelines Released

New guidelines for managing elevated blood glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes have been released by the American Diabetes Association and the European Association for the Study of Diabetes.

The new guidelines call for a more patient-centered approach that allows for individual patient needs, preferences and tolerances, and takes into account differences in age and disease progression. The guidelines also call for providing all patients with diabetes education, in an individual or group setting, focusing on diet, increased physical activity and weight management. The organizations behind the guidelines encourage health care professionals to develop individualized treatment plans based on a patient’s specific symptoms; co-morbidities; age; weight; racial, ethnic, and gender differences; and lifestyles. Read more on diabetes.

VA to Add Mental Health Workers to Aid Returning Veterans

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has announced that it will add about 1,600 mental health clinicians, including nurses, psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers, as well as nearly 300 support staff to the existing workforce of 20,590 mental health staff, as part of an ongoing review of mental health operations.

Read More

Apr 2 2012

Public Health News Roundup: April 2

U.S. Health Outcomes Outpaced by Most Other Developed Countries

The U.S. is being outpaced by most other developed countries when it comes to improvements in health outcomes, according to a new analysis by a researcher at the University Of Washington School Of Public Health. The researcher, Dr. Stephen Bezruchka, a senior lecturer in global health, says the decline comes despite increased U.S. spending on health care services.

HUD Awards $33 Million to HIV/AIDS Housing Programs

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has announced nearly $33 million in grants to extremely low-income persons living with HIV/AIDS. The grants will provide housing and supportive services such as case management and employment training. Read more on health and housing.

Funding Expands Opportunities for Veterans to Enter Health Professions

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has announced two grant programs totaling more than $24 million to help veterans enter the health profession workforce and increase the nation’s supply of advanced practice nurses and physician assistants. Read more on military health and opportunities.

FDA Denies Request to Ban BPA

Reuters is reporting that the Food and Drug Administration has denied a petition by the Natural Resources Defense Council to ban BPA, also known as bisphenol A, a chemical used in products such as water bottles, soup cans and other food and drink packaging that may cause harm to developing babies and young children.

The FDA says the petition did not provide the scientific evidence needed to change current regulations.

Mar 8 2012

Public Health News Roundup: March 8

Critical Rise in Army Suicides

Suicides among U.S. soldiers rose 80 percent from 2004 to 2008, according to a study in the journal Injury Prevention. While 40 percent of the suicides may have been linked to combat experience in Iraq, nearly a third of the soldiers who committed suicide were not in combat, according to the study. The researchers also found that rates of suicide among Army personnel from 1977 to 2003 were similar to trends in the general population, but in 2004 suicides started to increase quickly, outpacing the suicide rates among civilians by 2008. Read more on military health.

HIV Treatment in First Year of Life Needed to Avoid Cognitive Impairment in Children

A new study funded by the National Institutes of Health finds that treating HIV in order to avoid brain impairment may have a window of just the first year of life. Treatment begun later than that may not have as significant results in avoiding cognitive impairment. Read more HIV news.

Over Thirty Percent of U.S. Families Struggle with Medical Bills

One-third of American families are having trouble paying for health care, according to a report from the National Center for Health Statistics. Data for the first six months of 2011 found that one in five families had difficulty paying medical bills, one in four pays bills over time and one in 10 can't pay medical bills at all. Read more on access to health care.

Feb 29 2012

Public Health News Roundup: February 29

FDA Announces Safety Changes to Statin Drug Labels

The Food and Drug Administration has announced some key safety changes to the labeling for some widely used cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins. The changes include a revised schedule for monitoring liver enzymes in patients taking the drugs, and new information on rare cases of memory loss, confusion and hyperglycemia. Read more prescription drug news.

National Guardsmen Face Alcohol Abuse Risk

Soldiers in the Army National Guard with no history of alcohol abuse are at significant risk of developing alcohol-related problems during and after deployment, according to a new study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence Journal. Researchers found that the soldiers at greatest risk of developing alcohol-related problems also experienced depression or PTSD during or after deployment. Read more on military health.

Read More

Feb 23 2012

Public Health News Roundup: February 23

Survey: Surgeons Report Alcohol Abuse at Slightly Higher Rate Than National Average

About 15 percent of surgeons have alcohol abuse or dependency problems, a rate that is somewhat higher than the rest of the population, according to a new survey published in the February issue of Archives of Surgery. Surgeons with alcohol abuse or dependence also accounted for 77.7 percent of surgeons reporting a medical error in the previous three months, researchers suggest. Read more on medical errors.

Deployed Troops More Likely To Use Smokeless Tobacco

Soldiers deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan were more likely to start using smokeless tobacco than those who stayed home, according to a new study published in the journal Addiction. Troops were even more likely to use the tobacco products if they had exposure to combat. Study authors say this study adds to a long line of research on the increased risk of substance abuse for deployed military, possibly tied to the stress of these environments. Read more tobacco news.

Study Offers More Evidence That Colonoscopy Screening Saves Lives

New long-term research supports the idea that colonoscopy screening tests not only prevent colorectal cancers, but also go on to dramatically cut deaths from the disease. Researchers from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City found that removing precancerous polyps during colonoscopies resulted in a 53 percent drop in colon and rectal cancer mortality compared to deaths expected among similar patients in the general population. Read more on the latest developments in cancer prevention.

>> NEWS ROUNDUPS: Catch up on previous stories you may have missed