Readiness in Mind, USAMRDC Targets Harmful Behaviors with New Endeavor

By Ramin KhaliliFebruary 23, 2021

Given that the concept of force readiness remains an enduring focus of the U.S. Department of Defense, each specific service branch is keenly aware of any-and-all factors that can both increase or decrease readiness. Indeed, an uptick in the latter can pose a number of crippling threats to the force at-large. With recent, troubling spikes in a series of such harmful behaviors within the DOD, the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command is now embarking on a first-of-its-kind effort to identify and prevent these behaviors before they manifest themselves in a more aggressive capacity.

“This is very much a public health initiative,” says Maj. Karmon Dyches, Military Deputy for USAMRDC’s Military Operational Medicine Research Program's Psychological Health and Resilience Program Area, who notes the burgeoning effort – a partnership with USAMRDC’s Medical Technology Enterprise Consortium designed to encompass all service branches – will pay special attention to such hot-button issues as substance abuse, suicide and sexual assault. “It’s about education, but it’s also about the infrastructure you need to make sure the people, places and things are in place for it to continue to be successful.”

In short, what Dyches and the team at MOMRP are looking to receive from potential vendors is an all-encompassing roadmap for reform across multiple behaviors within the military (or, in internal parlance, “cross-cutting” reform), from brick-and-mortar structural aspects to full-scale execution of the plan. The announcement itself is scheduled to be awarded in March.

“Emerging evidence indicates there is high interconnectivity between risk and protective factors and resulting harmful behaviors,” says Dr. Sarah Maggio, Deputy Manager for MOMRP’s Psychological Health and Resilience Portfolio. “Research on the use of cross-cutting prevention initiatives has shown promising evidence of positive impacts on multiple harmful behaviors simultaneously, but more research is needed for the impacts of prevention efforts in military contexts.”

“We know there is problem with alcohol in the military and it is directly related to sexual assaults,” says Dyches, citing an example treatment based upon Maggio’s statement. “So if we can tackle both those things at the same time – meaning ‘cross-cutting’ – perhaps we can reduce alcohol misuse in the military and subsequently reduce sexual assaults as well.”

It’s that kind of approach – that, according to Dyches – that makes MTEC the perfect partner for this specific effort. Designed to accelerate the development of revolutionary medical solutions on behalf of the needs of military personnel and veterans, MTEC operates as a nonprofit corporation comprised of a vast stable of private, academic, and not-for-profit organizations – in short, an entity that can facilitate the funding and technological partnerships required for innovation. With regard to the team at MOMRP, that means developing a knowledge product containing everything from the technical aspects (i.e. the actual research that targets the prevention of multiple behaviors) to the structural aspects (i.e. budgetary and marketing considerations).

Additionally, and beyond the scope of a more routine request for proposals, the use of MTEC has allowed both performers and stakeholders to gather for preliminary discussions before the submission of a proposal even takes place; an operational wrinkle that allows MOMRP to shape and mold the product they truly need. This in integral to the process as, again, MOMRP is aiming to target behaviors across all service branches.

“From the ground up – that’s what this program is aimed at,” says Dyches.

For the team at MOMRP – and the larger DOD as well – it’s a step into what could be the future of protecting both the health, readiness and resilience of all Service Members.

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