DoD Introduces Online Medical Research Library
By Austin Camacho
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 20, 2002 Veterans and service members can now find the Gulf War research-related medical information they want on one central Web site, http://www.gulflink.osd.mil/medsearch/.
The site is the collaborate effort of the Defense Department's Deployment Health Support Directorate, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
The idea for the online medical library, dubbed Medsearch, came as a recommendation from a 1999 CDC conference, according to Drue H. Barrett of the CDC's National Center for Environmental Health.
"We brought together a variety of different scientists, researchers, veterans and patients' advocates," she said. "In several different work groups at this conference there was raised this issue that sometimes the research was difficult to search through because it was on several different sites."
Medsearch strives to fill the needs of both veterans and researchers, Barrett explained. Veterans wanted one place to go where all the information and research was available in a way they could understand and access it. Researchers wanted an easier way to keep track of all the research being done by the federal government in various places.
The site's creators believed it would be nearly impossible to capture all the research done related to Gulf War veterans' health, but government-funded research would at least represent the majority.
Some of the material on Medsearch consists of plain- language documents, like the case narratives written in the last few years by the Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses, known today as the Deployment Health Support Directorate.
Many articles, however, were published in scientific journals and filled with technical jargon. Directorate officials have said they can't rewrite these documents, but they are committed to making the information in them accessible to all readers. They've done this by adding introductions that give people a quick summary or synopsis of what they'll find in each document. For those who understand the scientific language, the original documents are posted in their entirety with source details.
The site's topics are listed in simple language so visitors can readily identify what they're looking for. For example, data on neurological disorders are listed under "Brain and nervous system."
There are also topics listed that you might not see in other medical sources. For instance, "pesticides" and "depleted uranium" are environmental and occupational hazards that civilian health care providers may not have much information on, but that are of key interest to Gulf War veterans.
Those who visit the site should know they are viewing just the first stage of an ongoing project. The site will be updated continually as more research is done. Barrett said she hopes Medsearch will become increasingly valuable to veterans as time passes.
(Austin Camacho is the senior public affairs specialist at the DoD Deployment Health Support Directorate, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, in the Pentagon.)