Background: In November 1996, the Armed Forces Epidemiological Board (AFEB) Injury Prevention and Control Work Group issued a report that cited injuries as the leading cause of morbidity and mortality among military service members. This article reviews the types and categories of military morbidity and mortality data examined by the AFEB work group and the companion Department of Defense (DoD) Injury Surveillance and Prevention Work Group. This article further uses the injury data reviewed to illustrate the role of surveillance and research in injury prevention. The review provides the context for discussion of the implications of the AFEB work group's findings for the prevention of injuries in the military.
Methods: The AFEB work group consisted of 11 civilian injury epidemiologists, health professionals and scientists from academia, and other non-DoD government agencies, plus six military liaison officers. Injury data from medical databases were provided to the civilian experts on the AFEB work group by the all-military DoD Injury Surveillance and Prevention Work Group. The AFEB work group assessed the value of each database to the process of prevention and made recommendations for improvement and use of each data source.
Results: Both work groups found that injuries were the single leading cause of deaths, disabilities, hospitalizations, outpatient visits, and manpower losses among military service members. They also identified numerous data sources useful for determining the causes and risk factors for injuries. Those data sources indicate that training injuries, sports, falls, and motor vehicle crashes are among the most important causes of morbidity for military personnel.
Conclusions: While the work group recommends ways to prevent injuries, they felt the top priority for injury prevention must be the formation of a comprehensive medical surveillance system. Data from this surveillance system must be used routinely to prioritize and monitor injury and disease prevention and research programs. The success of injury prevention will depend not just on use of surveillance but also partnerships among the medical, surveillance, and safety agencies of the military services as well as the military commanders, other decision makers, and service members whose direct actions can prevent injuries and disease.