Feb 24 2014
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IOM Report: More Evidence-Based Practices Needed to Help Treat and Prevent Psychological Disorders among Service Members and Families

Between 2000 and 2011, almost 1 million service members or former service members were diagnosed with at least one psychological disorder either during or after deployment, according to recent research by the Institute of Medicine (IOM). As a follow up, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) asked the IOM to evaluate the department’s efforts to prevent psychological disorders among active-duty service members and their families. That report was recently released.

The report includes recommendations on how the DOD can improve care.

Finding 1: DOD has implemented numerous resilience and prevention programs for service members and their families, but it faces a number of challenges, including an insufficient evidence base to support its interventions and a lack of systematic evaluation and performance measures.

Recommendation 1: By targeting resources to develop the evidence base and disseminate that evidence, DOD’s prevention efforts can be both more effective and cost effective.

Finding 2: There is a need for DOD to improve approaches for identifying and intervening with service members and their members who may already have or may be at risk for developing a psychological disorder.

Recommendation 2: DOD should dedicate funding, staffing and logistical support for data analysis and evaluation to support performance monitoring of programs for accountability and continuous improvement.

Finding 3: Screening, assessment and treatment approaches for psychological health problems are not always implemented between and within the DOD and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in a consistent manner or aligned with the evidence base, which threatens the delivery of high-quality care and hampers evaluation efforts.

Recommendation 3:

  • There are opportunities to improve processes of training and evaluating clinicians, including the incorporation of continuing education and supervision; standardized periodic evaluation; and a greater emphasis on coordination and interdisciplinarity.
  • The DOD and VA should invest in research to determine the efficacy of treatments that do not have a strong evidence base.
  • Both departments should conduct systematic assessments to determine whether screening and treatment interventions are being implemented according to clinical guidelines and departmental policy.
  • Accessible inter-department data systems should be developed to assess treatment outcomes, variations among treatment facilities and barriers to the use of evidence-based treatment.

>>Bonus Links:

  • Read the complete report.
  • Read a NewPublicHealth interview with Jonathan Woodson, MD, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs about the National Prevention Strategy.
  • Learn more about the state of mental health in the military from this infographic from the American Psychiatric Association embedded below.
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Tags: Mental Health, Military/veterans, Prevention