Leading civilian UK centre of excellence for military health research

The ADVANCE Study (ArmeD SerVices TrAuma RehabilitatioN OutComEStudy), a unique twenty-year study into the health of military veterans, has secured crucial funding for the next ten years from three sources – a very substantial grant from the Headley Court Charity (£10M), together with a special grant from the Nuffield Trust for the Forces of the Crown (£1M) to mark the Trust’s 80th anniversary, and a five-year commitment from Blesma, The Limbless Veterans (£250K).

ADVANCE investigates the long-term physical and psycho-social outcomes of battlefield casualties from the UK Armed Forces following deployment to Afghanistan between 2003 and 2014. This study is a collaboration between the Academic Department of Military Rehabilitation at the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre Stanford Hall, King’s Centre for Military Health Research (KCMHR), King’s College London and Imperial College London, and is the first prospective cohort study in this area.

It aims to follow up and support this group of UK service personnel – 600 severely injured servicemen and 600 uninjured servicemen who act as a comparison group – for a period of 20 years. The ADVANCE Study is investigating a wide range of outcomes, including cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis, mental health and social outcomes.

Professor Nicola Fear, Director of KCMHR and Reader in Epidemiology, commented:

‘Little is known about the long-term impact of being a combat casualty.  Securing this study for the next 10 years will enable the research team to explore the health and wellbeing of these service personnel, thus ensuring the development of and implementation of interventions and support for this population.’

King’s College London Regius Professor of Psychiatry, KCMHR Co-Director and ADVANCE Charity Trustee, Sir Simon Wessely, commented:

‘We are absolutely delighted with the news that the future of the ADVANCE cohort has been secured for the next ten years.  We owe it to those who have been severely injured in the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and those who may sadly be so injured in the future, to understand as much as we can about the long term physical and psychological consequences, and how we can mitigate them. ADVANCE is unique – it includes nearly all of those who were severely injured, and an equivalent number of those who served alongside them but were more fortunate.  

It involves state of the art science, but also an acknowledgement of the costs not just to the person themselves, but their families.  It is a collaboration between the world-famous Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre, Imperial College and King’s College London, one world famous for its science and engineering, the other for mental health and well-being. It is also a collaboration between science, the Armed Forces and the veterans themselves.

The country must be proud of those who served and suffered, but also proud of the fact that ADVANCE makes us world-leading in the science of rehabilitation and mental health.’

Participants undergo a range of health checks over the 20 years of the study and by being involved will contribute towards world class research that will improve present and future combat casualty care. Participant Jonathan Grave said:

‘I have a genuine interest in health and research and really believe the study has good intentions. And more importantly, I wanted to contribute towards ADVANCE and help research that will support long-term care outcomes for serving personnel and veterans. It is vital for ADVANCE to continue researching the long-term health outcomes of battlefield casualties from 2003-2014. ADVANCE will benefit current and future serving personnel and veterans – it’s just what we need.’

The King’s College London (via KCMHR) element of the ADVANCE study comprises a team led by co-ordinator, Melan Chesnokov, together with research assistants, Dan Dyball and Sarah Evans, together with database manager, David Pernet. Professor Nicola Fear is the lead investigator and Professor Sir Simon Wessely is a Trustee of the ADVANCE Charity.

To find out more about the ADVANCE Study visit their website or follow them on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Last chance to take part

If you think you may be eligible to take part in ADVANCE because you were medically evacuated following injury in Afghanistan whilst serving in the UK Armed Forces, or deployed alongside someone who was injured, please call the ADVANCE team on 0207 848 0894 or email [email protected]. You can also contact the team via the online contact form. If you take part, the study will cover your travel and accommodation expenses, and give you £100 as a thank you for the initial review and £200 for each follow-up visit.

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