Supporting the 21st Century Sailor with Science

Story Number: NNS170316-18Release Date: 3/16/2017 2:16:00 PM
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From Naval Health Research Center Public Affairs

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Naval Health Research Center (NHRC) welcomed Rear Adm. Ann Burkhardt, director, 21st Century Sailor Office, on an official visit, March 13.

During the visit, Burkhardt met with Capt. Rita Simmons, NHRC's commanding officer, and other key scientific personnel to discuss the command's research which aligns with 21st Century Sailor initiatives.

"NHRC's robust research portfolio includes several projects that dovetail with 21st Century Sailor objectives in terms of promoting the physical and psychological readiness and resilience of our warfighters," said Simmons. "We have a diverse group of scientists with expertise that spans behavioral health and neuroscience to sleep physiology and biomedical engineering, which makes us well equipped to leverage our research capabilities to support the 21st Century Sailor Office's mission."

Researchers from NHRC's health and behavioral sciences department provided Burkhardt with an overview of current research projects which directly address 21st Century Sailor initiatives of readiness, inclusion, and continuum of service.

Burkhardt was particularly interested in learning more about NHRC's longitudinal research and how that data could be used to improve readiness and resilience. Two studies of particular interest were the Millennium Cohort Study, the largest longitudinal study in military history which aims to understand the long-term health outcomes of military service; and the Recruit Assessment Project, which collects pre-service health and behavioral data to understand how military service impacts physical and psychological health.

Researchers also highlighted current research initiatives to develop:

* A mobile app to help prevent prescription drug misuse
* Leadership training to support improved sleep habits and well-being
* An improved suicide screening for use in primary care settings

"By identifying and better understanding factors that impact readiness and resilience, researchers can arm leaders across the DoD (Department of Defense) -- both on the operational and medical fronts -- with the knowledge they need to develop the tools and interventions that optimize warfighter health and performance," said Simmons.

NHRC scientists also discussed research efforts which support the physical fitness of Sailors. Since 1980, NHRC has provided expertise for the Navy's physical readiness testing, to include establishing pass/failure metrics and revising scoring standards. Currently, researchers are evaluating body composition data for Navy personnel and investigating strategies to improve how fitness is assessed, maintained, and optimized.

According to Simmons, just as advances in medical research are paving the way for precision medicine, an approach to designing prevention and treatment strategies based on individual physiology, lifestyle, and environment, the same could be done for fitness. Instead of a "one size fits all" approach, fitness could be personalized to individual service members -- a truly 21st Century approach to developing a healthy and ready force of the future.

"The scientists at NHRC are conducting remarkable research for the benefit of our warfighters, and it was an honor to share their work with Rear Admiral Burkhardt," said Simmons. "With our diverse group of scientists, unique research capabilities, and proximity to fleet, infantry, and air units, NHRC is well equipped to conduct operationally- and occupationally-relevant research in support of our 21st Century Sailors."

As the DoD's premier deployment health research center, NHRC's cutting-edge research and development is used to optimize the operational health and readiness of the nation's armed forces. In proximity to more than 95,000 active-duty service members, world-class universities, and industry partners, NHRC sets the standard in joint ventures, innovation, and translational research.

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