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Health-Behavior Survey Tracks Military Trends

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 7, 2005 – Midway through the survey period, the Defense Department is reporting steady returns on its latest health-related behaviors survey, and officials are urging others selected to participate to weigh in with their responses.

The 2005 Health Related Behavior Survey launched in April to assess active-duty servicemembers' health and well-being, according to Dr. David Tornberg, acting deputy director of Tricare management and deputy assistant secretary of defense for health affairs.

About 40,000 troops at 60 military installations worldwide were randomly selected to participate in the survey, the ninth of its kind designed to track changes in health-related behaviors among members of the armed forces, Tornberg said during an interview with the Pentagon Channel and the American Forces Press Service. Among issues addressed are troops' use of alcohol and tobacco, their efforts regarding weight control, and cholesterol management and major stressors that affect them, he said.

The last survey, conducted in 2001, identified trends toward heavier use of alcohol and tobacco, particularly among younger troops, so the 2005 survey includes more questions regarding these behaviors, Tornberg said. Questions about mental health issues are also "a significant focus" of the new survey, he said.

Participation is voluntary and survey responses are confidential, with an independent company conducting the survey and analyzing the input. Tornberg said the survey takes about 45 minutes to complete.

The results, expected to be released next year, will help the Defense Department identify emerging trends and shape its programs to better meet servicemembers' needs, Tornberg said.

Based on the 2001 survey, for example, the Defense Department and military services have beefed up their programs to reduce tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption and to promote healthful body weight, he said.

It's too soon to tell what's changed since 2001 or to assess the effect the global war on terror and multiple deployments will have on this year's survey results, Tornberg said. However, he said it's likely that many respondents will report high stress levels, as during the past survey.

Tornberg encouraged those asked to participate in the survey to do so, emphasizing the important role they will play in helping shape future programs for themselves, their comrades and their families. So far, almost half of the surveys distributed have already been returned, he said, and the survey period will continue through July.

"It's very important to understand the needs and stresses put on our military fighting men and women," he said. "This survey will help give us the information we need to enhance the services we provide to them."

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