Armed Forces occupational health--a review

Occup Med (Lond). 2009 Dec;59(8):528-38. doi: 10.1093/occmed/kqp140.


Background: The Armed Forces operate in a particularly arduous physical and psychological environment. The occupational health (OH) of all personnel is of paramount importance to sustain the service's fighting ability.

Aims: Firstly, to bring readers up to date with the current organization and delivery of OH to uniformed personnel in the Armed Forces. Secondly, to review the research that has led to an improvement in OH services and the ways in which the Armed Forces are responding to the various challenges.

Methods: A description of the type and delivery of OH to the Armed Forces is followed by a review of the relevant contemporaneous literature from both open publications and research dissertations.

Results: Although there are some similarities with civilian OH, the principal requirement to prepare and sustain service personnel for operations on land, sea and air adds considerable complexity to the task. Research undertaken by Armed Forces OH professionals has added to the evidence base and enabled attrition in all aspects of the Armed Forces to be reduced.

Conclusions: To meet the challenges of the 21st century, Armed Forces OH practitioners must continue to provide the best evidence-based advice to enhance force preparation and sustainment. All consultations in the Armed Forces involve an OH consideration from the simplest consultations through to the input from specialist OH practitioners. While the assessment of fitness to work in home bases and on deployed operations remains the primary output of OH, the provision of support to command policy, procurement and research are also key to the ability to operate worldwide.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aerospace Medicine / organization & administration
  • Delivery of Health Care, Integrated / organization & administration
  • Humans
  • Military Personnel*
  • Occupational Diseases / rehabilitation
  • Occupational Health*
  • Occupational Medicine / education
  • Occupational Medicine / organization & administration*
  • United Kingdom