Women’s health, particularly reproductive health, is at the forefront of the national dialogue right now. More than 4.7 million DoD beneficiaries are female. Women’s health services are among our top clinical service delivery lines in our direct care system, and are an increasingly critical element of medical readiness with women making up more than 18% of the active-duty force. For these reasons and more, I want to highlight the care and support the Military Health System (MHS) provides to our female beneficiaries.
Civilian and military leaders in the Department are committed to ensuring the health and readiness of women during their service, and to ensuring access to needed women’s health services for all of our female beneficiaries. This includes reproductive care and gender-specific care for issues such as cardiovascular health, mental health and musculoskeletal injuries.
The recent Supreme Court decision on abortion has generated a number of important questions from our beneficiaries and from elected officials. The law regarding abortion coverage in DoD remains unchanged by the court decision: where the life of the mother is at risk should the pregnancy be carried to term or in cases of rape and incest, DoD medical personnel are authorized to perform abortions, or the procedure will be covered under TRICARE in the civilian sector.
We have a robust set of resources for women, starting with information on covered services found here: https://tricare.mil/CoveredServices. Also, a new dedicated women’s health page on the MHS website is available at: www.health.mil/WomensHealth. This page provides comprehensive information on a broad range of topics affecting women and we will continue to update these sites to inform MHS personnel and beneficiaries, and to answer some commonly asked questions.
I want to also provide information on how to access two mobile apps designed specifically for women. The mobile apps are free and are available for both IPhone and Android.
The first mobile app is Deployment Readiness Education for Servicewomen (DRES), which addresses common questions and concerns during deployment, such as menstrual management, injury prevention, intimate partner violence, postpartum return to duty and family planning. The mobile app also provides information relevant to any deploying service member, including nutrition, TRICARE tips, and mental health resources. DRES can be downloaded here: https://mobile.health.mil/dres/#/ and can be saved to a desktop computer as well.
Decide + Be Ready is an evidence-based mobile app designed to assist women in evaluating and choosing the best contraceptive method for their unique situations. The mobile app leads users through a series of questions and then provides instant options for comparison. Used in conjunction with a health care provider, the mobile app can make the process of selecting the right contraception easier and more streamlined. Decide + Be Ready is available for iPhone and Android in application stores.
Regarding covered benefits, we’ve started a demonstration program to assess the impact of non-medical supports including doulas and lactation consultants/counselors, on maternal, fetal, and infant outcomes through the 5-year TRICARE Childbirth and Breastfeeding Demonstration. Beneficiaries receiving care in the private sector may be eligible to participate in the demonstration in CONUS locations, and eventually in OCONUS locations. For more information on the demonstration, please visit https://www.tricare.mil/CBSD.
Lastly, the DoD Women’s Reproductive Health Survey report by RAND Corporation will be published in the near future. The first survey of its kind in more than thirty years focused solely on active duty women, it will provide helpful insights into the needs, preferences, opinions and experiences of accessing reproductive health care.
While this summary represents a small portion of the MHS’s efforts, these efforts demonstrate our commitment to promoting the health and well-being of our female beneficiaries and I urge you to share these resources with your staff and beneficiaries. In the coming weeks, I’ll have more to share on women’s health, including reproductive health and ensuring access to contraception.
Finally, I feel a great deal of pride celebrating our health care professionals for the incredible work you do – and a Happy Birthday this month to the Air Force Medical Service, celebrating 73 years of delivering trusted care, anywhere; the Army Medical Corps, celebrating 247 years of dedicated service to Soldiers around the world and the Department of Veterans Affairs on its 92nd birthday. While the Department of Veterans Affairs is relatively new, President Hoover established the Veterans Administration way back on July 21, 1930. I am grateful for the contributions of each of these partners to the health and readiness of our forces and their families.
We are entrusted with serving an extraordinary group of Americans with some of the most personal healthcare decisions imaginable. Thank you for continuing to uphold the trust that our patients have in us.
Seileen M. Mullen
Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs