Health of the Force Report Reveals the State of Army Medicine


By Debbie Gregory.

The Office of the Army Surgeon General has released the inaugural Health of the Force (HOF) report, which provides a snapshot of the health of active duty Soldiers on U.S. based installations in 2014.

The Health of the Force report, released by Army Medical Command (MEDCOM) has tracked and collected health care data, showing the progress and needs of today’s soldiers. Key data regarding injuries, behavioral health, chronic disease, obesity, tobacco use, sleep disorders, hospital admissions, and other health measures has been invaluable in evaluating troop readiness.

In his first message to the force upon becoming Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. Mark Milley stated, “We must ensure the Army remains ready as the world’s premier combat force. Readiness for ground combat is — and will remain — the U.S. Army’s #1 priority. We will always be ready to fight today, and we will always prepare to fight tomorrow.”

According to the report, medical readiness was achieved by 83 percent of Soldiers, with injuries affecting nearly 300,000 Soldiers annually. Approximately 15 percent of Soldiers had a diagnosed behavioral health disorder, including adjustment disorder, mood disorders and anxiety disorders.

Many of these issues can be attributed to inadequate sleep, affecting the approximate 33 percent of Soldiers who get five hours or less of sleep per night and the approximate 62 percent of Soldiers who get less than seven hours. Inadequate sleep increases the likelihood of injuries, behavior disorders, anxiety, post-traumatic stress and depression.

And, the report notes very sobering information that “individuals who routinely get five to six hours of sleep perform much like a person with a blood alcohol content of 0.08.”

Army Leaders now have the “Health of the Force” to track the health of the Army, installation by installation, and to share lessons learned for those installations on different ends of the health spectrum.

Those who serve our nation, past and present, deserve the best healthcare available. The Military Medicine page has outstanding articles and resources for anyone who wants additional information.

Military Connection: DOD Awards $2 Million Grant for PTSD Research


By Debbie Gregory.

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has awarded a $2 million grant to RTI International, a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to improving the human condition by turning knowledge into practice.

The DOD grant will allow RTI International to lead the first randomized, controlled trials of a procedure to treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms by injecting an anesthetic into the nerve tissue at the base of the patient’s neck. Initial research has found basis to believe that the procedure, called Stellate Ganglion Block, has the potential to relieve PTSD symptoms. The procedure is intended to block the sympathetic nerve system in order to relieve the physical stress that is associated with instances of PTSD symptoms. In other words, this procedure combats the “fight or flight” feeling that is associated with PTSD.

Stellate Ganglion Block has been in use for about 100 years, mostly for treating chronic pain of the limbs. Only in the last few years has the procedure been used as a treatment for PTSD symptoms. The use of Stellate Ganglion Block is not being proposed as a cure for PTSD; raher, a way to alleviate symptoms. The traumatic experiences that caused the disorder will not be erased from the PTSD sufferer’s mind. But the procedure will help relieve the anxiety that the memories of those traumatic experiences cause.

As part of RTI International’s three year study, three military hospitals were chosen: Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany; Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawaii; and Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Bragg, in California. The three facilities were chosen because they had previously used Stellate Ganglion Block to treat PTSD, on a limited basis. The study will enroll 250 active duty service members who have been diagnosed with PTSD.

For the study, participants will receive two injections, two weeks apart. The injections will be followed by mental health assessments that will be conducted at weeks 4, 6 and 8. The assessments will include a qualitative component to gather impressions of the procedure from the patients, their families, behavioral therapists and psychiatrists. The study will also use a placebo control group that will receive injections of saline.

Unfortunately, PTSD is an affliction that is rampant in the military community. It has been estimated that as many as 20% of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans suffer from the disorder. For the most part, prescribed treatments for PTSD included a lot of prescription drugs. The heavy use of drugs does little to treat the patient, and more often than not leads to other mental and physical health problems, including substance abuse of these very same prescribed drugs.

Proponents of Stellate Ganglion Block claim that the procedure is a low-risk injection that has very few negative side effects.

Our service members and Veterans deserve the very best treatment for whatever ails them. If any new procedure or method of care arises that could improve the lives of those who serve, then those procedures and methods should be given a chance.

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Military Connection: DOD Awards $2 Million Grant for PTSD Research: By Debbie Gregory