Stephen Hunt

Project title: Long-term Health Consequences of Incarceration as a Prisoner of War

Degree: MPH | Program: Occupational Medicine (Occ Med) | Project type: Thesis/Dissertation
Completed in: 2005 | Faculty advisor: Timothy K. Takaro


Many of the occupational hazards of military service are similar to the occupational risks encountered in civilian life and correlate directly with civilian workplace risk exposure matrices. There are certain military occupational risks and environmental exposures, however, which are unique to military service. These unique occupational risks include hazards and exposures associated with military weapon testing, military combat training and military combat. One uncommon but significant risk of military combat is that of being captured and incarcerated by hostile forces. Soldiers, sailors, marines and air-crew captured by enemy forces in wartime are known as prisoners of war. As of January 1, 2003, here were 39,029 living U.S. former POW's; this number includes 36,145 from WWII, 2,264 from the Korean War, 595 from the Vietnam War, 21 from the Gulf War of 1991, and one from the US military action in Somalia.

This thesis will examine long term health consequences resulting from capture and incarceration in military prisoner of war camps in a cohort of 332 former US military personnel who were held as prisoners of war during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. The purpose is to seek to identify experiences during incarceration that are associated with later life disabilities in ex-POWs. Identifying such predictors of subsequent disability is important for three reasons:

1) to insure that ex-POWs receive the health care necessary to treat these long term health consequences of their incarceration,
2) to insure that they receive other support and resources necessary to compensate for any associated disabilities, and
3) to further our understanding of aspects of incarceration that may contribute to long-term disabilities in ex-POWs so that we might advocate that these factors are taken into account in other situations involving incarcerated prisoners of war; this might allow us to identify risk factors for negative long-term impacts and lead to early interventions to prevent such morbidities.

Taken from the beginning of thesis.