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DHA recognizes 25 years of AFHSB's health surveillance journal

Medical technicians wearing masks and entering information on a computer Georgia Army National Guardsman Pfc. Loran Jones, a combat medic with the Marietta-based 248th Medical Company, 265th Chemical Battalion, updates patient medical records at Wellstar Atlanta Medical Center in Atlanta, Ga. In May, the Georgia National Guard strategically deployed medical support teams to hospitals to augment medical staff. (Photo by Spc. Isaiah Matthews.)

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This year, the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch (AFHSB) celebrated the 25th anniversary of its peer-reviewed journal, the Medical Surveillance Monthly Report (MSMR). The MSMR offers readers evidence-based estimates of the health-related conditions and trends prevalent among U.S. military members and their associated populations.

“MSMR surveillance information and the published explanations of such information facilitate military leaders’ understanding of the public health measures that help to preserve the health and readiness of our armed forces,” said Dr. Francis O’Donnell, MSMR editor. Established in 1995, the MSMR was created as a flagship publication and public health authority within the Army Medical Surveillance Activity (AMSA), the forerunner of the AFHSB, a part of the Public Health Directorate at the Defense Health Agency.

“The 25 years of reports in the MSMR have dealt with a myriad of illnesses, injuries, and health threats that have challenged our military members. The rich historical record preserved in MSMR archives helps in assessments of the military importance of current health threats and in the development of policies to prevent or mitigate their medical and military operational impacts,” said Dr. John Brundage former editor and co-founder of the report.

Many studies in the MSMR are based on summaries of medical administrative data that are routinely provided to AFHSB and integrated into the Defense Medical Surveillance System (DMSS) for health surveillance purposes. The DMSS is an active database of health-related information on service members who have served in the military since 1990. It contains billions of records including medical encounters such as hospitalizations, outpatient visits, immunizations, reportable medical events, health risk appraisals, and deployment health assessments; demographic characteristics; and military experiences like deployments, assignments, and casualty information.

According to Brundage, Dr. Mark Rubertone, chief of AFHSB’s Data Management & Technical Support section, played an essential role in the production of the MSMR from its inception. Rubertone led the collection and assembly of military health surveillance-related data (initially, in the AMSA and then the Defense Medical Surveillance System) in the 1990s that allowed for a new method of statistical and epidemiologic analyses by military health surveillance professionals. “There would not have been a MSMR without the vision, dedication, and relentless efforts of Doctor Mark Rubertone,” credits Brundage.

“It has been a real pleasure witnessing the MSMR’s evolution to a peer-reviewed journal.  My association with the MSMR remains one of the efforts I am most proud of during my service in the DoD," stated Rubertone, as he expressed congratulations to the current and past MSMR staff on 25 years of tireless, comprehensive health surveillance reporting. This point-of-view was strongly supported by Dr. Jose “Toti” Sanchez, deputy chief, AFHSB, who since his early days at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in the early 1990’s saw the potential and relevance of this publication in providing a unique military-relevant perspective to the major public health problems faced by the U.S. military.

The MSMR is published on a monthly basis and is available online only in a downloadable PDF format. To subscribe to the MSMR, visit https://health.mil/msmr.

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