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Health :: Health of Australian defence force members to be examined

Ex-Service Organisations attending a Defence-sponsored seminar in Australia were asked to endorse the collection of data from current and former ADF members for a series of important deployment health studies.

Australian Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence Bruce Billson said the Deployment Health Surveillance Program (DHSP) would provide a systematic, prospective and ongoing means of assessing and understanding the health effects of deployment on ADF personnel.

?Deploying is a difficult thing to do ? that is without question. Physically, psychologically, emotionally, there are costs to those who go overseas to serve,? Mr Billson said.

The DHSP has engaged the Centre for Military and Veterans? Health (CMVH) at the University of Queensland to conduct retrospective studies into the health effects of deployment to the Near North Area of Influence (NNAI), including East Timor, the Solomon Islands and Bougainville. Health studies will also soon be commissioned relating to deployment in the Middle East Area of Operations (MEAO) which includes Afghanistan and Iraq.

CMVH has completed Phase 1 of the NNAI studies including the design of data collection, data analysis and reporting protocols by which Phase 2 of the studies will operate.

The data collection exercises ? a self-reported questionnaire and the examination of Defence Health records ? has began for the Solomon Islands but will not begin for Bougainville and East Timor until after June 2007, with final reports due at Defence Health Services Division by May 2008.

?These studies are not seeking volunteers because CMVH will randomly select those to be surveyed as this will increase the scientific validity of the studies,? Mr Billson said.

He said the studies would be approved by a group of eminent and highly qualified scientific advisers external to Defence who are experts in the conduct of health research studies.

?Defence cares about the long-term health of current and ex-serving members of the Australian Defence Force who have deployed in the service of the nation,? Mr Billson said.

?These studies will examine health issues relating to deployment to see if there are any long term effects.

?Armed with this knowledge, Defence can work to ensure that our servicemen and women maintain their health and fitness long after they return from serving their country.?

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