New medical support team reduces musculoskeletal and mental health problems> air force> View article

One of the Air Force’s first multidisciplinary medical operational support teams working to reduce musculoskeletal and mental health problems in the Air Force Hill Air Force Base.

The five-person team consists of an exercise physiologist, clinical psychologist, clinical social worker, physical therapist and strength conditioning coach, with high-stakes modules for up to six months to achieve the desired results.

“What we’re really trying to do is monitor for the broader, longer-term things that cause muscular, skeletal and mental health problems so that we can help the unit make adjustments to prevent future injuries or mental health crises,” said Bill Goins. Core Operations Support Team Specialist

Risk data has been collected from 75 Medical Group Over the past year, he identifies high-risk units in the installation.

“We’re taking the data and approaching the top pair unit command on base and explaining what we’re seeing and what we can do to help,” Goins said. “The units have been very responsive and excited to get us in.”

Once on a unit, the OST uses a four-phase approach to determine how best to help reduce muscular, skeletal and mental health issues and create internal sustainability as they move on to the next unit.

The team works alongside members of the unit, in every department and every shift to capture the pilots’ experience in action and build trust with them.

“We’re trying to build trust and break down barriers until you raise our concerns,” Goins said. “We do a couple of needs assessments, work in their department with them and figure out what they want and what they need. Then we get to work helping the pilots.”

During a recent inclusion opportunity with the 75th Security Forces Squadron, OST noticed a lack of shoulder mobility from people wearing their necessary gear.

The team’s physical therapist made suggestions as to what squadron members could do before they put their arms down and when they lowered their arms, to help reduce repetitive use injuries.

Goins said the OST reduced low back pain profiles by 75% during their time with 75th SFS.

“When we entered the unit, musculoskeletal and mental health risks were the 12th highest out of 82 security forces units across the Air Force,” he said. “When we left, they were in 75th place out of 82.”

A key part of what the OST does is help the squadron build and expand what they can do without the team and establish connections where the team can reach again for sustainability.

“We are developing the response team to improve swarm performance,” said Goins. “These are lonely people, so when we move to our next location, those people can continue for good after we leave.”

Goines said the OST concept is important to the Air Force right now because instead of waiting for people to break, it stands in front of it before the break happens.

“We do physically demanding jobs and mentally stressful jobs and people fall apart,” he said. “This is not unique to the Air Force, these are just people. It gives me great joy that Airmen have access to these specializations and knowledge in prevention.”

It is expected that each Air Force base will receive an OST in the next three to five years.

“Our goal is to make Airmen better for themselves, for their families, and for the Air Force,” Goins said. “It’s definitely exciting.”

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