Environmental Effects on Soldier Performance
The final day of the 2014 3rd International Congress on Soldiers' Physical Performance had just as much science to share as the first.
During the morning session, "Science to Practice: Transitioning Predictive Models into Working Applications for the Warfighters," four presenters discussed the environmental challenges faced by Soldiers; how heat, cold, and altitude can and does induce decrements in health and performance.
For unit leaders and mission planners, predictive models and equations of Soldier response to these types of austere environments is essential.
"What we are going to present today is a little bit about the modeling and the science that we've used to develop those predictive equations," opened symposium chair Dr. Beth Beidelman from the Thermal and Mountain Medicine Division at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine. "Most importantly, what we're going to be talking about is how we've transitioned those models into practical, working applications."
In the midst of an age where everything is "instantaneous," obtaining critical information at the click of a button is not only attainable, it is entirely practical.
Dr. Samuel Cheuvront, also from the Thermal and Mountain Medicine Division at the USARIEM, spoke first, with a presentation on the "Development of a Potable Water Planning Tool."
"We all know that water is a required nutrient we need to drink every day in order to maintain optimal health and performance," Cheuvront began, "But, what a lot of people don't know is drinking water is the number one potable planning factor."
With around 50 percent of the entire supply of potable water being set aside for drinking, it is clearly not a small thing to plan for, and must be done so actively.
"If we plan for too little water, then we place troops at strategic risk," Cheuvront continued, "because they can become dehydrated, they can be more susceptible to illness, and their performance can decline. But likewise, if we plan too much, then we burden manpower. We need to get it right."
Not only are the models and equations, and the scientific studies and research behind them, important, but making those predictive models and equations practical for and usable by the general public is the key.
"The point I want to make is that this is all great science, but it's not very useful to anybody," he said with a laugh. "In fact, it's even of limited use to people who really understand it."
Equations and formulas are all well and good, and needless to say essential for progress, but if no one is able to access or utilize a tool, what good are they at all?
That got Cheuvront and his team thinking -- "could a Soldier-friendly application be developed for an Android smart device-type platform where anyone could use this equation and use it accurately?"
The answer was "yes."
Cheuvront and his team at the USARIEM collaborated with MIT Lincoln Labs, researching the major factors that influence the incidence of sweat. Ultimately they came up with five simple parameters for a user-friendly, smart phone application.
"That's about as simple as you can possibly make this," said Cheuvront.
And from that, the "SWET App" was born.
The SWET App, standing for Soldier Water Estimation Tool, consists of five parameters: temperature, relative humidity, solar, clothing and activity level. As long as a user is able to plug the necessary information into the smart phone application, instantaneous output of how much water to consume per hour will appear.
"Bracketed categories make it very easy for the end-user to really not make a big mistake," added Cheuvront.
The SWET App was awarded a U.S. provisional patent in January 2014 extending through January 2015 and has completed limited user testing.
"So, this is a very near-term product," said Cheuvront.
Take a look around at the world we live in today... "more than 56 percent of American adults have a smart phone; 20 percent of smart phone users have a 'health app' on their smart phone; and right now there are already a total of 30,000 'health apps' in use, some with more than 15 million users," concluded Cheuvront. The growing interest in health and fitness is incredible; and "the need for accurate water planning applies not just to the military, but also to public health, wilderness, and sports medicine communities."
Other participants in the morning symposium included: Dr. Jaques Reifman from the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command's Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center with a presentation titled, "Preventing Heat Injuries by Predicting Human Core Temperature;" Dr. Xiaojiang Xu from the Biophysics and Biomedical Modeling Division at the USARIEM with a presentation on the "Development of the Probably of Survival Decision Aid in Cold Water;" and symposium chair Dr. Beth Beidleman with her own presentation on the "Development of the Altitude Readiness Management System."