Skip main navigation

Military Health System

Clear Your Browser Cache

This website has recently undergone changes. Users finding unexpected concerns may care to clear their browser's cache to ensure a seamless experience.

Health surveillance advances military medicine over past 30 years

Image of Military personnel crouched on the ground . The Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division continues to evolve military health surveillance in order to detect new and emerging hazards, track rates and trends of illnesses and injuries of concern. Their efforts support our service members operating in austere conditions, like the Marines of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit as they participate in Exercise Cobra Gold 2020 in Thailand (Photo by: Marine Lance Cpl. Colton Garrett, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit).

Military health surveillance has seen dramatic changes and improvements since the Persian Gulf War ended in 1991.

"Over the past 30 years, military health surveillance has evolved from a focus on science for sake of knowledge, to a focus on medical readiness of the individual soldier, Marine, sailor and airman to ensure that if called upon, they are ready to fight and win the nations wars," said Army Col. Douglas Badzik, chief of the Defense Health Agency's Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division.

Those investigating the medical complaints of Gulf War veterans were hindered because relevant records were often inaccessible or nonexistent. The records that were found lacked uniformity and accuracy, and were generally not automated.

"The last 30 years have seen improvements in data collection, automation, and transmission. It has allowed for the creation of robust longitudinal health surveillance records on military populations," said Dr. Mark Rubertone, chief of AFHSD's Data Management & Technical Support section.

Badzik agrees, "This trend was accelerated in 2014 with the establishment of the Defense Health Agency and its role as a combat support agency and, the transition of AFHSD - known at that as the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center - to the DHA public health directorate. The establishment of AFHSD also significantly increased the coordination of surveillance among the service public health entities."

Tools such as the Defense Medical Surveillance System (DMSS), a continuously expanding, fully integrated, relational public health surveillance system allowed for the conduct of powerful epidemiological assessments into the morbidity experiences of service members. Other "remote access" tools such as the Defense Medical Epidemiologic Database (DMED), the Electronic Surveillance System for the Early Notification of Community-based Epidemics (ESSENCE), and the Health Surveillance Explorer (HSE) provided users with unparalleled access to timely, relevant, and actionable information.

The most recent tool, the HSE, is a dynamic CAC-enabled mapping application that allows Geographic Combatant Commands to identify global health threats and disease outbreaks in near real-time.

Additionally, advances in biospecimen research utilizing repositories such as the DOD Serum Repository (DoDSR) with more than 70 million frozen serum specimens collected on service members during the past 30 years have contributed greatly to our knowledge of service members' health. With links to relevant demographic, occupational, and medical information within the DMSS database, the DoDSR provides a unique and powerful resource to support the conduct of military medical surveillance, clinical care, and seroepidemiologic investigations.

The potential values of comprehensive public health surveillance are numerous and well recognized. It remains essential that population-based demographic, exposure, and medical outcomes data are routinely and systematically collected from various sources and integrated into public health surveillance systems.

"If resourced properly and fully utilized in the DOD, future public health officials from all Services in the Defense Health Agency will be positioned to detect new and emerging hazards, track rates and trends of illnesses and injuries of concern, and prioritize and focus prevention programs," said Rubertone, an army retired colonel.

Badzik further explains, "The coordination among the Service public health entities has been invaluable in combating the COVID pandemic, which does not care what color uniform a Service Member is wearing. While health surveillance within DOD is still conducted to the highest scientific standards, it is now done through the lens of improving the medical readiness of the individual service member."

You also may be interested in...

Report
May 3, 2024

2022 DOD Worldwide Numbers for TBI

.PDF | 1010.17 KB

TBICoE is the Defense Department’s office of responsibility for tracking traumatic brain injury data in the U.S. military. Here you’ll find data on the number of active-duty service members—anywhere U.S. forces are located—with a first-time TBI diagnosis in the calendar year 2022. The data is also broken down by each branch of the armed services.

Topic
Apr 25, 2024

Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division

The Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division plays a critical role in force health protection. As the central epidemiologic resource for the U.S. Armed Forces, AFHSD conducts medical surveillance to protect all those who serve our nation in uniform and allies who are critical to our national security interests.

Topic
Feb 15, 2024

Functional Information Technology Support

The Functional IT Support section provides functional knowledge and guidance to help manage the technical infrastructure and database management expertise to support the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division's mission to conduct comprehensive surveillance and analysis of health-related information regarding DOD service members and military ...

Topic
Feb 15, 2024

Department of Defense Serum Repository

The Department of Defense Serum Repository was established in 1989 as the Army/Navy Serum Repository for storing serum that remained following mandatory HIV testing within the active and reserve components of the Army, Navy, and Marines. Since that time, the mission of the serum repository has expanded to include the collection and storage of ...

Article
Jan 4, 2024

Leveraging Emerging Technology to Detect Biothreats Subject of Recent Summit

Leveraging Emerging Technology to Detect Biothreats Subject of Recent Summit

The Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division’s Global Emerging Infections Surveillance branch hosted its first Next-Generation Sequencing Summit in Silver Spring, Maryland. Attendees included representatives from the GEIS network of global partner laboratories and other U.S. government agencies. AFHSD is a division of Defense Health Agency Public Health.

Article
Aug 1, 2023

Active Surveillance for Acute Respiratory Disease Detected No Outbreaks at Four U.S. Army Basic Training Installations in 2022

This article presents the 2022 results of the active surveillance program for acute respiratory disease and Group A Beta-Hemolytic Streptococcus conducted by the Defense Centers for Public Health-Aberdeen at the four Army installations responsible for basic combat training or one-station unit training. This ARD surveillance program rapidly monitors, ...

Article
Aug 1, 2023

Case Report: Complicated Urinary Tract Infection Due to an Extensively Resistant Escherichia coli in a Returning Traveler

This article presents the medical case report of a 76-year-old man who returned to the U.S. following overseas travel and was admitted at Hawai'i's Tri­pler Army Medical Center with a complicated urinary tract infection due to an extensively resistant strain of E. coli.

Report
Aug 1, 2023

MSMR Vol. 30 No. 8 - August 2023

.PDF | 1.02 MB

The August 2023 MSMR provides the most recent data from the active surveillance program for acute respiratory disease and Group A Beta-Hemolytic Streptococcus among U.S. Army basic trainees; then summarizes the case report of an extensively resistant E. coli in a returning traveler at Hawai'i's Tripler Army Medical Center; followed by a Surveillance ...

Article
Jul 1, 2023

Absolute and Relative Morbidity Burdens Attributable to Various Illnesses and Injuries Among Non-Service Member Beneficiaries of the Military Health System, 2022

This report represents an updated summary of care provided to non-service members in the MHS during calendar year 2022. MHS beneficiaries are diverse and heterogeneous, including active component service members, activated National Guard and Reserve service members, active component immediate family, retirees, and their family members, with differing ...

Article
Jul 1, 2023

Medical Evacuations out of U.S. Central and U.S. Africa Command Among Active and Reserve Components, U.S. Armed Forces, 2022

This report summarizes the nature, numbers, and trends of conditions for which military members were medically evacuated from the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) or Africa Central Command (AFRICOM) operations during 2022, with historical comparisons to the previous four years.

Article
Jul 1, 2023

Morbidity Burdens Attributable to Various Illnesses and Injuries Among Deployed Active and Reserve Component Service Members, U.S. Armed Forces, 2022

This annual estimate of illness- and injury-related morbidity and health care burdens on the U.S. Armed Forces and MHS updates previous analyses of these burden distributions among active and reserve component service members in deployed settings. This report focuses on the health encounters of service members during deployment to U.S. Central Command ...

Skip subpage navigation
Refine your search
Last Updated: July 11, 2023
Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Facebook Follow us on X Follow us on YouTube Sign up on GovDelivery