Healthy Living: Improving care for soldiers and veterans
Soldiers have so much more body armor, and life-saving technologies have advanced so much that soldiers are surviving more serious injuries. But that comes with its own set of challenges. In this segment of Healthy Living, our Katie Gibas tells us about new ways to make sure those who served return home with the best possible support.
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There's no question how wars are fought and the type of injuries soldiers come home with have changed drastically over the decades.
"People have so much more body armor. We have such advanced life-saving technologies and capabilities that people are surviving more serious injuries than they used to in the past. That's wonderful but it also creates a whole new set of challenges. We have more suffering from what we call the invisible wounds of war than we every have before," said Dr. Barbara Rothbaum, an Emory School of Medicine Professor of Psychiatry.
Those invisible wounds include PTSD and traumatic brain injuries. And women are twice as likely as men to come home with PTSD.
"They were in supposedly in support roles. But what does that mean? For example, truck drivers, drivers. That is one of the most dangerous things in Iraq and Afghanistan with IEDs and improvised explosive devices. So women are seeing a lot of bad things to happen to them over there even in these supposedly supportive roles," said Rothbaum.
Besides creating a more open environment for people to talk about these issues, there's increased medical and scientific research about the best ways to deal with potential traumatic brain injuries.
"They have implemented a blast protocol in theater. So if someone is within 50 meters of a blast, they are taken offline and observed for 24-hours.
"They are letting their brains rest. Think about Afghanistan, it is not a very nice environment. It is very hot. And if part of what happens after a blast injury is swelling, we need to cool people. We need have them rested. We need to have them hydrated. And so they're doing that and it's reducing the impact of the blast injuries," said Rothbaum.
There's also experimentation with virtual reality to treat PTSD and online groups to offer support to soldiers and veterans to make sure those who served return home with the best possible support.