Public health experts improve research skills

By Samantha Birk, Public Affairs Intern, Army Public Health CenterJuly 27, 2017

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Researchers from the Army Public Health Center's Behavioral and Social Health Outcomes Practice Division partnered with APHC Soldiers to run a data collection training exercise to assess social and behavioral health risk factors of Soldiers.

BSHOP behavioral health experts travel to bases and installations worldwide, studying and identifying problems that may be occurring in military populations, such as suicide, substance abuse and sexual assault. Behavioral health issues can affect a Soldier's resilience, motivation and readiness.

The purpose of the exercise was to give members of the BSHOP program firsthand experience on how to conduct an Epidemiological Consultation, or EPICON, which consists of a survey, focus group and administrative data systems analysis. The purpose of the survey and administrative data analysis was to identify the who, what and when of the problem, while the focus group aimed to identify the why and how of the problem.

"The surveys really help you get a sense of trends of issues, whether (or not they're) trends in behavioral health and substance misuse," said Maj. Donell Barnett, BSHOP chief of Field Investigations and Program Evaluation. Barnett also explained the importance of focus groups, saying they can help provide the story to explain the numbers, allowing the team to be better informed and able to intervene if there is a problem.

The survey covered topics such as demographics, social support and personal experiences. The focus group discussed group dynamics, living and social environments, and the Soldier's basic week.

"Behavioral health allows Soldiers to work on issues and get the assistance they deserve," Barnett said. "I think it's a good thing for Soldiers and readiness, and it allows them to focus better on the mission."

The BSHOP team is part of the APHC's Clinical Public Health and Epidemiology Directorate and is made up of public health and behavioral health professionals. After identifying the problems, BSHOP will make suggestions to Army commanders to help them solve problems. These recommendations could lead to changes in policies and procedures.

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