By Monica Bullock and Emily Briskin, Army Public Health CenterMarch 22, 2018
WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Army Public Health Center recently released its third edition of the Health of the Force report. The report makes Soldier health and readiness information accessible to a wide array of stakeholders, including military medical professionals, Soldiers, and the larger community.
As noted by U.S. Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Nadja West, the Health of the Force Report "highlights the Army's current population health successes that ultimately we, as an Army, can leverage across our camps, posts and stations, in support of the Army's number one priority, readiness."
The report compiles information from military medical surveillance systems to illustrate health outcomes and health factors that affect medical readiness among Active Component Soldiers. Medical surveillance can inform programs to reduce and prevent illness and injury in Soldiers.
"Our Soldiers and their medical readiness are the foundation of our fighting force," said Dr. Amy Millikan Bell, APHC medical advisor and Health of the Force chairperson. "The report provides data for the overall Army and profile pages for each installation, so that installations can compare themselves to others. Commanders can understand their status in all areas and then improve the areas of weakness. Charts even provide information on how demographic factors such as age and sex can affect Soldier health."
In his initial message to the Force, Secretary of the Army Dr. Mark T. Esper offered that "readiness and welfare of our Soldiers, Civilians, and their Families will always be foremost." The conditions assessed in the report, including injury, behavioral health, sleep disorders, and chronic disease all have an immediate impact on Soldier medical readiness. Health factors, such as obesity, tobacco use, substance use, healthcare delivery, and air quality all affect a Soldier's performance and likelihood of developing more serious medical conditions.
According to the Health of the Force report, injuries continued to be the leading cause of Soldiers being not medically ready. In 2016, the most recent year for which data are available, 52% of Soldiers experienced an injury, and among those affected, most experienced multiple injuries. The report provides various insights for understanding the burden of injuries on the Army community.
The Army has recently focused on reducing tobacco use, including "tobacco-free living" initiatives. The decline in tobacco use among Active Component Soldiers from 28% in 2015 to 26% in 2016, as outlined in the Health of the Force report, demonstrates the possible effect of these programs and indicates room for continued efforts.
Senior Army leaders are using the Health of the Force report to further understand the health of their communities and to improve the environment, infrastructure and nutrition on their installations. In addition to data highlighting challenges and successes, the report includes brief narratives describing the latest advancements in injury and disease prevention and mitigation. The report provides meaningful data for senior Army leaders to create cultural and programmatic change in support of the total Army's overall readiness and health.
"It's important to have data displaying that we have a fully functioning, healthy, ready fighting force," George White, Health of the Force product manager, said. "This data distinguishes between beliefs and facts so we can identify strengths and analyze vulnerabilities. Commanders want to know whether or not to execute a mission, so when weighing their options they need credible evidence on the current health of their unit."
John Resta, director of the U.S. Army Public Health Center and Acting Deputy Chief of Staff of Public Health for the U.S. Army Medical Command, stated that "in support of total Army readiness, the Health of the Force report continues to provide meaningful data and information through rigorous research and analyses."
Readers are encouraged to provide feedback or seek more specific consultative services by contacting the APHC Health of the Force team through the "Contact Us" button on the website: https://phc.amedd.army.mil/topics/campaigns/hof/Pages/default.aspx.