By Debbie Gregory.
The group known as the Consortium on the Health and Readiness of Servicewomen is comprised of more than 30 private and public researchers from the Naval Health Research Center in San Diego, as well as from academia, the government and private institutions. Their areas of expertise include epidemiology, neurocognitive psychology, nursing and family studies.
The multidisciplinary group of researchers launched a new consortium that aims to enhance the health, readiness and well-being of women serving in the military.
Researchers do not know the answers as to how military service affects women. Understanding the unique concerns that impact only women, or issues that impact both men and women in different ways, is important in order to maintain a ready military force.
An article in Naval Medical Research and Development News described the consortium as timely, given new military policies that directly affect female service members, including the end of a ban on ground combat roles for women. Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta lifted the 1994 Combat Exclusion Rule that restricted women from serving in frontline infantry, armor and special operations units and set a January 2016 compliance deadline. In a few years, women could be in training to become Army Rangers and Navy SEALs under plans by the military services for integrating women into combat units.
The consortium members possess experience in research where gender can play an important role, such as suicidal behavior in men and women, biological and genetic risk factors associated with PTSD, sexual assault, and the effects of deployment on military families.
The Consortium findings can help the Defense Department. Female service members are serving in more complex occupational specialties and are being deployed to combat operations, potentially leading to increased health risks. Similar to their male counterparts, female service members must maintain their medical readiness; however, they have unique health care needs that require access to gender-specific services.