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University of Otago supports research into veterans’ health

22 February 2012

University of Otago supports research into veterans’ health

The University of Otago and the New Zealand Defence Force will today sign a memorandum of understanding which will see significantly increased research into the health of military veterans, serving personnel and their families.

It will be attended by the Vice Chief of Defence Force, Rear Admiral Jack Steer, and Chief of Staff, Air Commodore Mike Yardley, along with other senior Defence and University of Otago staff.

The University has decided to make Health of Veterans, Serving Personnel and their Families one of its new research themes, to increase support for and focus on this important national occupational area.

The signing of the MOU formalises and expands existing research relationships with NZ Defence Force. It also mirrors an existing MOU the University of Otago has with the University of Queensland Centre for Military and Veterans’ Health.

“This is a very important occasion for the University of Otago, cementing our engagement with another national organisation with the security and wellbeing of New Zealand as core values,” says Professor Richard Blaikie, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Enterprise).

The MOU also covers a wide variety of other research across the University including security, peace and conflict studies, clothing and textiles, oceanography and international relations — reflecting international research and best practice in these areas.

The Director of the new research theme is Associate Professor of Occupational Health, Dr David McBride, currently a reservist medical officer serving in Afghanistan.

He has a deep personal interest in defence issues, and says that there are many areas of research interest initiated by today’s MOU, the new research theme and collaboration with Defence which will benefit veterans, serving personnel and their families.

“I’m delighted with today’s signing as the University is developing a series of further research projects around the interface between civilian and military health. One of the themes that we would like to pursue is post-conflict re-integration of service people back into their communities and families,” he says.

“This is particularly relevant at present with significant numbers of military personnel serving in Afghanistan and other areas of conflict or risk.”

Associate Professor McBride says health research is central to the MOU as military service involves a high level of physical and psychological demand which may have a profound impact upon the health of servicemen and women, their families and friends. Indeed the impact can last for the rest of their lives he says.

The new strategic approach to health of veterans, in collaboration with New Zealand Defence Force, will include a significant expansion of current research activities such as the Vietnam Veterans’ Mortality Study, broader health outcomes and the health of families.

“We already have a research project led by a PhD Student, Marian Baxter, into injury prevention investigating the biomechanics of motion and load bearing in the serving soldier. Another project led by Associate Professor Stephen Milosavljevic, with Defence assistance, is looking at whole body vibration impacts from military vehicles.”

“The signing of the MOU with Defence is a great step forward. It opens the door for a much more strategic approach to defence health research,” says McBride.

The new research theme and the MOU comes at an appropriate time with many significant anniversaries coming up in the 2014-18 period, including the ANZAC centenary of the Gallipoli campaign in WW1. Associate Professor McBride says he expects the University of Otago to make a significant contribution to these anniversaries through its new research theme.

ENDS

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