Fostering Progress through International Collaboration
Advancements in Soldier physical performance, international collaboration and the sharing of ideas, and priorities for the future... those were the topics on the agenda of the 2014 3rd International Congress on Soldiers' Physical Performance roundtable discussion on Tuesday, Aug. 19, in Boston, Massachusetts.
Expert participants involved in the day two media roundtable included: Dr. Brad Nindl, science advisor for the U.S. Army Public Health Command and co-chair of the ICSPP; Dr. Marilyn Sharp, senior investigator for the Environmental Medicine and Military Performance Division at the U.S. Army Institute of Environmental Medicine and co-chair of the ICSPP; and Dr. Nigel Taylor, associate professor in the School of Medicine at the University of Wollongong in Australia.
Dr. Nindl started off the roundtable discussion, making clear to members of the media on the line that "the purpose of this meeting is to foster scientific dialogue aimed at better understanding Soldiers' health and performance."
Nindl stressed the importance of promoting health and preventing disease, injury and disability at the USAPHC through the use of evidence-based science, noting specifically how "perfectly aligned it [the USAPHC mission] is with the central theme of this conference."
"As Army medicine transforms from a reactive healthcare system to a proactive system for health, with primary prevention as the cornerstone, scientific meetings like this, presenting the most cutting-edge health-centered research findings, will prove to be transformative," said Nindl. "A better understanding of the science of Soldiers' physical performance will continue to be critical in assuring each country's national security."
Dr. Sharp spoke next, focusing on the importance of the USARIEM mission of promoting the health and welfare of our Soldiers; increasing operational performance while reducing injuries. With discussions revolving around upcoming Army downsizing realities, Sharp stressed the importance of developing physical performance standards for Soldiers to try to come up with ways to better predict who is going to be the "best Soldier" for a given job.
"Everyone has to be able to do their job and do it right," Sharp said frankly. "We are trying to find the right Soldier for the right job."
"It [the ICSPP] is of vital importance for researchers from around the world to come together in arms," said Taylor during his introduction. "We need to be contributing to growth; sharing our knowledge and learning from others, because no one country has a monopoly on expertise."
This "sharing of ideas" concept has been the theme at this year's ICSPP. Bringing together attendees from approximately 30 countries, including Australia, France, Sweden, Russia and Israel, just to name a few, the 2014 ICSPP has proven to be the most successful yet, bringing in the highest number of attendees to date.
Of particular interest at this year's ICSPP has been the problems revolving around Soldier load and the critical need to lighten that load.
"Soldier load has been a problem for decades; every time we lighten a Soldiers load, we add another piece of equipment that makes it worse," said Sharp. "I believe this is a very big problem that needs to be worked out."
Another key topic centered on Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho's Performance Triad initiative, a current effort in motion working to operationalize education and information with the hope of improving Soldier activity, sleep and nutrition. With over 325 attendees registered at the 2014 ICSPP, and of those attendees about 60-70 percent scientists with Ph.D.'s, "there is so much scientific information going around in terms of how to improve Soldiers' sleep, activity and nutrition," said Nindl, "but the challenge for us is how to operationalize this for the Soldier on the ground."
When asked what the one thing our panelists would like attendees to take away from this four-day symposium, the consensus was unanimous, a better understanding of what other countries are doing and continued international collaboration.
"So many countries and so many militaries are working on the same issues," concluded Nindl, "so the goal here is to get international scientists together to network and have scientific exchange and dialogue; working towards a better understanding of the health and performance of Soldiers."