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Millennium Cohort Study to Watch Military Health

By Jan Davis
Special to American Forces Press Service

SAN DIEGO, June 19, 2001 – Are military people healthier than their civilian counterparts or are they at greater risk for illnesses due to their military service?

Those questions and more may be answered by a new joint- service Millennium Cohort Study headed by Navy Dr. (Lt. Cmdr.) Margaret A.K. Ryan, director of the DoD Center for Deployment Health Research at the Naval Health Research Center here.

According to Ryan, the 21-year-long project will be the most ambitious study of military personnel ever undertaken. Investigators will track 100,000 military people with health surveys mailed every three years. Of the 100,000 members, 70,000 will be veterans and active duty members who have not served in Southwest Asia, Bosnia or Kosovo since 1997. The other 30,000 will be military people who served in these areas after Jan. 1, 1998.

Cohort studies compare a group of individuals who share a common characteristic. In this case, it's military service. Millennium Cohort participants are selected randomly from Defense Manpower Data Center records.

"The study will focus on determining if military service, especially deployments, puts military members at risk for disease," said Ryan, who specializes in preventive medicine and occupational health issues. "We'll examine military members' incidence of chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes. We're gathering information in several areas, so we'll have many other health issues to evaluate."

She said the study will "over sample" reservists and female service members to get additional information on their health risks as increasing numbers of them comprise deployed military forces.

Some data will be available as early as 2004, when the second set of questionnaires is returned. In October 2004, 20,000 new military personnel will be added to the study, and three years later, in October 2007, 20,000 more for a total of 140,000. Participants' health will be followed until 2022.

The multiservice team of 15 researchers that designed the study developed such innovative data collection methods as allowing participants to respond via the Internet.

Millennium Cohort is sponsored by the Office of Secretary of Defense's director of biosystems.

Ryan became principal investigator in June following the retirement of Navy Dr. (Capt.) Greg Gray, who initiated the study. Her research team members are from the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

(Jan Davis is deputy public affairs officer at the Naval Bureau of Medicine and Surgery in Washington, D.C.)

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Related Sites:
Naval Health Research Center Web site

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