DoD to Assess Female Troops' Reproductive Health for First Time in Decades

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Lt. Tasha Gallegos talks to a female service member about contraceptive care.
Lt. Tasha Gallegos talks to a patient about contraceptive care at the Comprehensive Women’s Health Center at Naval Hospital Pensacola on May 18, 2018. (Jason Bortz/U.S. Navy)

The Pentagon is conducting its first survey in more than 30 years specifically focused on the reproductive health of female service members, according to an Aug. 4 release from the Military Health System Communications Office. It begins this month.

The Department of Defense Active Duty Women's Reproductive Health Survey will assess the behaviors and experiences of active-duty female service members, which can affect military readiness, and help clinicians learn about women's gynecologic and obstetrical care needs. Collecting current data on women's health issues will help shape policy and access to care, the release adds.

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The survey will focus on women’s experiences with military health care, as well as their needs and preferences for family planning and contraception, said Kimberly Lahm, program director for Patient Advocacy & Experience, Women's, Child & Family Health Policy in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs.

"Participants have a great opportunity to provide feedback to help the military identify policies and practices that best meet their needs," she added.

The survey results will be analyzed by Rand Corp., a private think tank that contracts with the Defense Department frequently for assessments and policy analysis.

The confidential and anonymous survey takes about 15 minutes to complete; participants will be selected at random from a sample of active-duty female service members below the level of flag officer in the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard. Selected participants will be notified by email or postal mail, the release states.

Participants do not have to complete the web survey in one sitting; they may pause and restart it anytime via computer, smartphone or tablet.

The inclusion of women from the total force will assist in creating a picture of what issues affect members of each service, Diana Jeffery, Ph.D., project director for the survey from the DHA Clinical Support Division, said in the release.

"Each service can have specific concerns, so we need to hear from all women," she explained. "The goal is to use the data to shape clinical services and evaluate if the reproductive health care needs of active duty women are being met."

The voluntary survey is available until October. Visit the survey website to determine eligibility.

The health care needs of female troops and veterans has been a recent focus of policy makers and Defense Department officials, particularly as the military services strive to recruit and retain more women. Funding bills for 2021 have multiple provisions to provide better health care for female vets, while issues like female troops’ access to contraception have been the topic of recent studies.

-- Bing Xiao can be reached at bingxiao2020@u.northwestern.edu.

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