Outlook: Newsletter of the Society of Behavorial Medicine
Spring/Summer 2015 Return to Outlook main page »

Military and Veteran Health Impacts Millions

Military and Veteran health is of utmost importance. Military recruits are healthier than the general population of similar age and other demographics, on average, due to medical screening requirements for military service. During service, Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines are of much higher fitness than the general population due to military training and retention standards. However, our Veteran population is, on average, of equivalent or worse health and health-related behavior than the general population. There is a clear link between military service and health.

Much is still not known about how military service results in adverse health or how to actually reduce the adverse health impact during and after military service. In the longer term, the most clear and widespread negative impact of prior military service is among both physical and mental chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, pain, and post-traumatic stress disorder. These chronic conditions are further associated with health-risk behavior and other mental health comorbidity, often in multifactorial and reciprocal causation.

A substantial portion of the U.S. population is impacted by their own or their family member's military service. There are over 2.5 million current Department of Defense (DOD) service members and over 21 million Veterans. Of U.S. Veterans overall, 8.9 million are enrolled in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Healthcare System. We have an immense opportunity to not only maintain health but to promote health among millions of persons. Through behavioral health research, practice, and policy innovation, we can greatly enhance the health of those currently serving in the military, those who once served, and their families.

The Military and Veterans' Health Special Interest Group (MVH SIG) of the Society of Behavioral Medicine (SBM) was founded in 2011 in an effort to promote behavioral health research, practice, education, and policy for military and Veteran health. The SIG functions as a centralized communication outlet between SIG members and the larger SBM organization as well as other organizations and agencies responsible for policy and research related to military and Veteran health (e.g., DoD, VA, National Institutes of Health, and other government and non-governmental organizations).

Megan McVay, PhD
Megan McVay, PhD
-Award Recipient-

The MVH SIG has two primary aims over the next year that will culminate through the next SBM Annual Meeting in 2016 (March 30 to April 2 in Washington, DC). First, it will continue to leverage the benefits of SBM and MVH SIG membership to foster professional networking, career development, and scholarship. To accomplish this aim, the SIG will use previously successful methods and new ways to support early-career researchers and professionals by connecting them with mentorship, training, and career opportunities. The second aim is to promote DoD, VA, and other governmental collaboration for behavioral health research, practice, and policy innovation.

The SIG is also pleased to offer the new annual Dr. Patricia R. Rosenberger Research Award, established in 2014 for exceptional research and service to the field of behavioral medicine for military and Veteran health. At the latest SBM meeting in 2015, the award was presented to Megan McVay, PhD, for her work to identify factors that predict initiation of the VA-based weight loss program, "VA MOVE!".

The MVH SIG invites all SBM members to join our commitment of promoting behavioral health research, practice, education, and policy for the health of those still serving, those who once served, and their families. Even if you are not a member of the MVH SIG, we invite interested SBM members to join our listserv by contacting Katherine Hall, MVH communications officer, at: katherine.hall@duke.edu.

This is an exciting time for behavioral health. We look forward to working with our SIG members and others in support of military and Veteran health in the coming year!

Jeffrey P. Haibach, PhD, MPH Robin M. Masheb, PhD Katherine Hall, PhD
Jeffrey P. Haibach, PhD, MPH
Robin M. Masheb, PhD
Emily Grieser, PhD
MVH SIG DoD Co-Chair
Katherine Hall, PhD
MVH SIG Communications Officer