The Department of Defense today announced that "Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine," a journal dedicated to aerospace medical research and clinical practice, will publish an article in its March edition describing improved strategies to protect the health of U.S. military forces.
The article introduces the military's new "Force Health Protection" strategy that is designed to provide maximum health protection to servicemembers throughout their careers.
The article uses a review of recent experiences involving the anthrax vaccine to illustrate the role for a scientific standard and better health communication in developing and implementing military health policy.
"Clinical care and preventive medicine decisions must be based on sound science," said Dr. Sue Bailey, assistant secretary of Defense for Health Affairs. "Our men and women in uniform deserve nothing less. Then we must communicate with them accurately about our decisions."
The article points out that the anthrax vaccine is necessary to protect military men and women because it is impossible to rapidly and reliably detect the microscopic, odorless, and colorless anthrax spores, which can be dropped unnoticed onto a chaotic battlefield or secretly dispersed in buildings where troops are housed.
Misinformation, the article states, has created doubts about the anthrax vaccination program.
For example, the anthrax vaccine has been licensed since 1970 and has full Food and Drug Administration approval, but some reports try to portray the vaccine as an experimental product.
The article also points out that other criticisms of the anthrax vaccine program disregard modern concepts of medicine and clearly are attempts to discredit a large-scale vaccination program.
Opposition to the military's administration of the anthrax vaccine has been caught up in a broader advocacy against vaccines, including the routine childhood vaccinations that have saved countless lives during the last half century.
"As in the decision to vaccinate troops against anthrax, we have to use peer-reviewed scientific data to evaluate benefits and risks of all medical care and preventive medicine measures," said Bailey. "Only sound science -- not untested opinion or anecdote -- can guide policy formulation in health care."
The article is published in the monthly journal of the "Aerospace Medical Association, Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine." The journal facilitates communication among civilian and military physicians, life scientists, bioengineers, and medical specialists working in aerospace medicine in basic medical research and in its clinical applications. It is distributed to more than 80 countries.