Iron Deficiency in Women and Its Potential Impact on Military Effectiveness
WILFORD HALL AIR FORCE MEDICAL CENTER LACKLAND AFB TX NURSING RESEARCH
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In 1993, the Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces rescinded the risk rule, which had prohibited women in the US military from serving in certain positions based on a substantial risk of capture. Lifting this ban allows todays military women to serve in positions that historically had not been open to them, such as aviator, navigator, mechanical technician, infantry, gun crew, just to name a few of the historically all-male military positions. Today, more women are choosing to join the military and are serving their nation with a greater choice of military occupations. Women make up 14 of the US military population, with the US Air Force having the highest proportion of women 19. In Iraq and Afghanistan combined, 10 of those serving in the military are women. The increased number of women has required the military medical system to assess the health care services provided in both the continental United States and in rugged settings abroad, whether in deployed or humanitarian settings. These services must be delivered in the context of differences by gender in health and illness so as to maintain a fit and ready force. Fortunately, research that examines and sheds insight into the salient differences in health care needs between men and women is burgeoning. Some health care conditions, such as iron deficiency ID, are more prevalent among women than among men. ID can reduce the oxygen-carrying capacity of blood, in turn impairing optimal physical and cognitive functioning. The high prevalence of ID in military women parallels the high prevalence of this problem in women athletes, and this must be considered a condition that warrants regular screening to help ensure the optimal performance of military women.
- Medicine and Medical Research