Category Archives: Military
A recent article in the Washington Post looks at ongoing clinical trials that have researchers studying the potential effects of transcendental meditation as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As many as 10 percent of returning veterans suffer from PTSD and both internal military reports and outside reviews show an insufficient and too-slow response for veterans seeking mental health help. Military spokespeople say they know many returning veteran with mental health concerns who aren’t accessing the help at all. The results of the trials won’t be available for at least a year, but two small pilot studies show a reduction of symptoms by 50 percent in participants just two months after beginning the meditation.
- Read an interview with Jonathan Woodson, MD, assistant secretary for health at the Department of Defense (DOD) on the DOD's emphasis on wellness and suicide prevention.
- Read the full Washington Post article.
- Read a blog post from the Department of Veterans Affairs on maintaining military benefits for veterans displaced by Hurricane Sandy.
News from APHA: Veterans More Likely Than Civilians to Seek Treatment for Heavy Drinking
A new study released today at the 140th meeting of the American Public Health Association meeting in San Francisco found that male military veterans with a history of heavy alcohol use are more likely to seek treatment and, later, report better overall health and less depression than their civilian counterparts. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health. Read more on military health.
Hurricane Sandy: Experts Urge Safe Food Handling
As the East Coast prepares for Hurricane Sandy, experts from the U.S. Department of Agriculture offer critical tips for keeping food safe during a power outage, such as freezing containers of water to keep food cool and knowing how long refrigerators and freezers will stay cool enough to preserve food, even after the power goes out. Read more on preparedness for Sandy and other emergencies.
Study: Quitting Smoking Before Age 40 Avoids 90% of Excess Mortality
A new study published in The Lancet finds that although the hazards of smoking at any age are high, the benefits of quitting are also enormous. While smokers in the United Kingdom lose at least 10 years of life, quitting before age 40 years avoids more than 90 percent of those excess lost years of life. Stopping before age 30 years avoids more than 97% of the excess mortality. Read more tobacco news.
World Suicide Prevention Day, co-sponsored by the World Health Organization, promotes commitment and action to prevent suicides. Almost 3,000 people commit suicide every day, and for every person who completes a suicide, 20 or more may attempt to end their lives. In the first five months of 2012, at least 155 military service members committed suicide—more than the number of service personnel killed in Afghanistan during the same time period.
As part of our National Prevention Strategy series, NewPublicHealth spoke with Jonathan Woodson, MD, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs in the Department of Defense, about suicide prevention as well as the department’s overall approach to wellness and prevention for military, veterans and their families.
Listen to the podcast and read the full interview with Dr. Woodson below.
September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month
September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, a critical observance since over the past 30 years the childhood obesity rate in America has almost tripled, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In 2010, approximately 17 percent of children and adolescents ages 2-19 qualified as obese. Children and teenagers who are obese are more likely to become obese adults with serious adult health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, certain types of cancer and osteoarthritis. According to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, children and adolescents ages 6 to 17 years should spend 60 minutes or more being physical active each day. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 recommend balancing calories with physical activity and encourages Americans to consume more healthy foods such as vegetables; fruits; whole grains; fat-free and low-fat dairy products; and seafood. It also recommends they consume less sodium; saturated and trans fats; added sugars; and refined grains. Read more on obesity.
Secondhand Smoke Exposure May Extend Stay for Kids Hospitalized with Flu
A recent Journal of Pediatrics study on about 100 children hospitalized for flu found that those children who had been previously exposed to secondhand smoke were five times more likely to be admitted to the intensive care unit and required a 70 percent longer stay in the hospital, compared to kids who’d had no exposure to tobacco smoke. Read more on tobacco.
Humvees Account for High Percentage of Military Crashes
A new study by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health researchers finds that U.S. soldiers are at greatest for risk for injury in a Humvee crash if they are the driver or gunner. That finding is important say the researchers because, according to the U.S. Department of the Army, motor vehicle crashes account for nearly one-third of all U.S. military deaths each year and are among the top five causes of hospitalization for military personnel. According to the Hopkins study, which was published in the journal Military Medicine, nearly half of vehicle crashes in Afghanistan, Kuwait and Iraq from 2002 through 2006 were in Humvees. The researchers found that the odds of being injured in a Humvee accident are greatest when the crash occurred in combat. “[That finding] indicates that in a high-stress situation, the soldier may be distracted or less likely to take self-protective measures or follow safety regulations,” said study co-author Susan P. Baker, MPH, a professor with the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy. Read more on the military and public health.
Dallas Mayor Declares West Nile Emergency, Calls For Aerial Pesticides
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings has declared a state of emergency and requested county and state officials begin aerial pesticide spraying to combat the West Nile Virus, according to The Dallas Morning News. Ten country residents have died of the disease, including five in the city. There have so far been 111 total infections reported in Dallas. West Nile is spread by mosquitoes and cause severe neurological effects, and even death, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read more on infectious disease.
Army Reports 26 Potential Suicides in July; 116 in 2012
The U.S. Army reported 25 potential suicides and one confirmed in July, up from 12 potential suicides in June. There have been 116 potential active-duty suicides in 2012. In a U.S. Department of Defense news release, Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, vice chief of staff of the Army, said the military must help soldiers “build resiliency and strengthen their life coping skills.” “As we prepare for Suicide Prevention Month in September we also recognize that we must continue to address the stigma associated with behavioral health,” he said. “Ultimately, we want the mindset across our force and society at large to be that behavioral health is a routine part of what we do and who we are as we strive to maintain our own physical and mental wellness.” Soldiers and their families can call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website 24 hours a day to speak with trained consultants. Read a Q&A with the head of the National Association of Social Workers on their growing role in suicide prevention among active military and veterans.
U.S. Adults Consume Too Much Sodium, Too Little Potassium
U.S. adults consume far too much sodium and too little potassium, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It found that 99.4 percent of adults had a higher daily sodium intake than recommended by the American Heart Association. Fewer than 2 percent of adults met the recommended potassium levels. The nature of most food in the United States makes it hard to avoid high salt levels. “People are trying to follow the guidelines, but it’s difficult because there’s so much sodium in the processed and restaurant food we eat,” said Dr. Mary Cogswell who led the study at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, told Reuters. Read more on nutrition.
CDC Says Baby Boomers Should Get Hep C Tests
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that all U.S. baby boomers be tested for hepatitis C, according to the latest recommendation in the agency’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. One in 30 boomers have hepatitis C—the majority of them unknowingly—which can lead to serious liver disease and death. “A one-time blood test for hepatitis C should be on every baby boomer’s medical checklist,” said CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH, in a release. “The new recommendations can protect the health of an entire generation of Americans and save thousands of lives.” Read more on aging.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 www.diamondpetrecall.com.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.