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Friday, June 01, 2007

DoD Health Study Has Become Timely Tool

When a landmark Defense Department-sponsored health study was launched six years ago, one of its goals was to evaluate the impact of future deployments on long-term health. The investigators did not know how timely the project would be.

Today, the Millennium Cohort Study has enrolled tens of thousands of participants who have deployed in support of the war on terrorism, said Navy Cmdr. Margaret Ryan, director of the Defense Department Center for Deployment Health Research in San Diego.

The study was designed in the late 1990s "in the wake of the first Gulf War to answer some of the most difficult questions that couldn't really be answered retrospectively after that conflict," Commander Ryan said.

The joint-service study was established to evaluate the health risks of military deployments, occupational exposures and general military service.

About 108,000 service members have signed up to take part since program enrollment began in July 2001.

Participants' health is evaluated over a 21-year period. And Commander Ryan said the group participating in the study likely will total more than 147,000 people.

The study is providing data to help military epidemiologists understand possible cause-and-effect relationships between combat-zone deployments and problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

"About 40 percent of our cohort has deployed to one of the more recent operations, either in Iraq or Afghanistan or surrounding regions, in support of the global war on terrorism," Commander Ryan said.

Participants report their health status every three years. More information on the study and how to participate is available at Millennium Cohort.

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