The Health Equity Blog’s mission is to contribute to the discussion of health policy using evidence and research, to explore the opportunities for health equity through policy change, to raise awareness about health disparities, and to increase public advocacy for health equality.

According to the CDC, “Health equity is achieved when every person has the opportunity to ‘attain his or her full health potential’ and no one is ‘disadvantaged from achieving this potential because of social position or other socially determined circumstances.’”

Achievement of full health potential is necessary in all aspects of life – from running errands to relationships with loved ones. Some people are born into environments that limit their ability to achieve their full health potential. We believe that because society created many health inequalities, society can also fix them.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veteran's Health

In 1919, after the end of the first world war, President Wilson proclaimed November 11th as Armistice Day to commemorate the end of fighting in Europe.  The day was originally meant to honor veterans of WWI alone, but in 1954, congress changed the name to Veteran’s day to honor those who served during WWII and those who would serve in later wars.  This post on Veteran’s health is in honor of all veterans but especially those in my family - My grandfather Edwin (WWII), My grandfather John (Korean War), My Uncle Tommy (Panama and Operation Iraqi Freedom), My Uncle Marty (Operation Iraqi Freedom), My Sister Lindsay (Operation Iraqi Freedom) and my Brother-in-law Juan (Operation Iraqi Freedom) - and in Emily’s - her Grandpa Koebnick (WWII) and her Grandpa Huso (WWII).  Thank you all for your service.

The Current Health of Veterans
The VA recently stopped releasing the number of soldiers injured in Iraq and Afghanistan, but we know that as of last December more than 900,000 soldiers had been injured in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.  Earlier reports put the monthly influx of injured at around 10,000 which means it is likely that about 1 million soldiers have come home injured so far. (VA Stops Releasing Data On Injured Vets As Total Reaches Grim Milestone)  
Although all war injuries are potentially life changing, I will focus on two that are especially pervasive and devastating to recent veterans - Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  
Traumatic Brain Injury
It is difficult to know exactly how many soldiers return with TBI. Penetrating brain injuries are easily diagnosed, but closed brain injuries like concussions are more common and harder to recognize.  However, in 2006, a study out of the walter Reed Medical Center suggested that there were more TBIs in current wars because of advancements in body armor technology that has saved the lives of soldiers who otherwise would have died, but who now live with injuries to their heads and extremities.  It also pointed out the increased use of explosives as a contributing factor.  By the time of the report, 28% of all soldiers who were medically evacuated from a war zone had TBI, with 56% of them having moderate to severe TBI. (Military TBI During the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars)
If you think that TBI sounds familiar, it is probably because you have been hearing about professional football players suffering from, and in some cases eventually dying from, TBI.  “TBI can cause changes in a person’s ability to think, control emotions, walk, or speak, and can also affect sense of sight or hearing” (What are the effects of a traumatic brain injury?).  Mild TBI generally causes temporary changes while moderate to severe have more long term effects.  The physical symptoms of TBI can often cause depressions, insomnia and anxiety.  These injuries likely contribute to the disproportionate rate of suicide that veterans face - a recent VA report states that 22 veterans take their own lives every day (VA Issues New Report on Suicide Data).  What is even more horrifying is that most agree that the number is actually higher because of limitations in how we report deaths and veteran status in this country.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
    Since 9/11, almost 30% of all soldiers from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom who have been treated by the VA have been diagnosed with PTSD.  Those who are deployed more than once are more than three times as likely to suffer from PTSD than those who only deploy once.  There is some argument about the percent of all veterans (not just those who are treated by the VA) who have PTSD, but the VA currently estimates it at 20%.  (Report on VA Facility Specific Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), and Operation New Dawn (OND) Veterans Coded with Potential PTSD - Revised)
    PTSD is when your fight or flight response is “damaged” by a traumatic event.  Fight or flight is a natural and healthy response to a dangerous situation, but those who suffer from PTSD continue to experience the response after the danger is gone.  Symptoms include reexperiencing the event through nightmares and flashbacks, feeling emotionally numb, depression, and hyperarousal (being easily startled, difficulty sleeping, angry outbursts, etc). (What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?)  There is also often a connection between PTSD and homelessness.  Sadly, veterans are 50% more likely to be homeless than non-veterans and they are often homeless for longer periods of time.  PTSD often hinders a person’s ability to maintain relationships and employment which can cause homelessness which then exacerbates the PTSD. (PTSD and Homelessness Form a Vicious Cycle That Plagues Many Young Veterans From Iraq and Afghanistan)
How Can You Help?
    We often talk about supporting our troops, but it isn’t always easy to know how best to do that.  This Veteran’s Day, consider honoring those who have served in the armed forces by donating time or money to an organization that helps soldiers suffering from physical or psychological injuries or one that helps house veterans.  You can find reviews of non-profit veteran organizations here and here but two suggestions are:
The Bob Woodruff Foundation - started by Bob and Lee Woodruff after Bob (a journalist) suffered a severe traumatic brain injury from a roadside bomb in Iraq
Homes for Our Troops - an organization that builds homes for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans with serious injuries
If you know of a great organization that helps Veteran’s, feel free to share in the comments below!

1 comment:

  1. neurofeedback for adhd
    - Zengar.com is an Industry Leader in Healthy Brain Workout, Fitness Program, Neurofeedback for ADHD, Brain Exercises, Neurocare, PTSD Disorder and Biofeedback Systems."/>