The Women's Health Task Force

Friday August 31, 2012

What is it?

The Women's Health Task Force (WHTF) is a team of 43 professionals focused on the gender specific health needs of women in the military. The Army's Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho directed the establishment of a WHTF in December 2011. The team was born out of the Health Services Support Assessment Team (HSSA) that in 2011 spent three months in Afghanistan talking to female warriors from all of the services about their deployment health concerns. The white paper: The Concerns of Women Currently Serving in the Afghanistan Theater of Operations is a result of those discussions. The WHTF is focused on facilitating the recommendations of the HSSA as outlined in the white paper.

What has the Army done?

In the summer of 2011, the Army sent an assessment team into Afghanistan to talk with women serving in that area of operation about their deployment health concerns. The team traveled throughout Afghanistan and through a series of town-hall and small group meetings, women's healthcare providers talked to 150 women about their particular health concerns. The results of these conversations were combined with the current state of the science on deployed women's health research to produce the aforementioned white paper.

Women's health experts on the team determined six themes of concern from this assessment: Women's health education; barriers to seeking care; uniform/personal protective gear fit; psychosocial effects of deployment; effects of deployment on children and families; and sexual harassment/assault response and prevention. The assessment team made recommendations to the Army about each of these themes.

What continued efforts does the Army have planned for the future?

The Army Surgeon General stood up the Women's Health Task Force to ensure the facilitation of the white paper recommendations and to advise leadership on issues concerning women's health. The WHTF is actively working with a variety of Army and Department of Defense agencies regarding each of the white paper findings and recommendations. One immediate priority action is initiating ways to educate women and leaders about deployment health at military training, during annual periodic health assessments, and in social media. Additionally, they are developing a self-diagnosis kit for common female conditions for use by women in the military.

Why is it important to the Army?

Nearly 275,000 women have deployed in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom, New Dawn, and Enduring Freedom. Women are an integral part of the force and their health not only affects their personal readiness, but also unit readiness. As women's roles evolve, it becomes more and more important to be aware of their specific health issues. The Army recognizes that in order for women to be fully integrated and effective members of the team, their unique health needs must be both considered and met.

Resources:

White paper: The Concerns of Women Currently Serving in the Afghanistan Theater of Operations

U.S. Army Medical Command

Soldiers Magazine: Improving women's health in the Army

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What They're Saying

"Educating our leaders about women's health issues is critical. If you are a leader, you have to be able to lead all of your troops. As we expand the roles that women play in the force more and more of your troops are going to be women. The Women's Health Task Force will stand ready to support Army senior leaders with the information they need to make the right decisions to optimize the success of our female Warriors."

- Col. Anne Naclerio, chairwoman of the Women's Health Task Force

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