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AFHS data assets and the funding to support them cannot be assured after the end of fiscal year 2006.

All remaining components of the charge will be addressed in the committee’s final report. The committee had not made final determinations on these at the time this report was completed and none should be inferred from the material presented here.

INFORMATION GATHERING BY THE COMMITTEE

As of August 31, 2005, the committee had conducted three meetings. During the first meeting, the committee received its charge from Dr. Mark Brown, the director of Environmental Agents Service of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The committee was also briefed on the study design, protocol, and results of the AFHS by the study’s then principal investigator, Dr. Joel E.Michalek. The second and third meetings included workshop sessions with presentations from experts in the conduct of longitudinal epidemiologic studies and the management and dissemination of epidemiologic data and biospecimens. Representatives of veterans service organizations also presented information for the consideration of the committee.

In addition, the committee has engaged in an extensive effort to collect other information on topics relevant to its charge. As part of this effort, four members of the committee—Drs. Blazer, Hankinson, Kalman, and Richardson—conducted a site visit to the AFHS research facility at the Brooks City-Base, San Antonio, Texas, on May 27, 2005. Accompanying them were IOM study staff and Mr. Victor Pontes, a consultant to the committee on issues related to SAS datasets.1 The intent of the visit was to evaluate the state of the documentation of the study’s data assets, examine how they were stored, and assess the ease of access to them. Working groups were established to focus on the electronically stored data and the specimens. The observations of these working groups are summarized below.

The committee’s information gathering has been greatly aided by the AFHS staff, who have been helpful in answering the committee’s many questions. The committee thanks them for their continuing cooperation.

Findings of the Data Working Group

The AFHS database is vast. It comprises electronically stored datasets containing the information collected from subjects during the six cycles of in-person physical examinations, as well as other data generated in the course of various analyses. The database also includes a number of materials originally collected in hard copy. These include paper originals of cycle physical exam reports and completed questionnaires; medical records from the subjects’ physicians, dentists, and other health providers; X-rays and other diagnostic imagery; lists of medications taken; military administrative records such as duty station orders, flight records, performance reports, awards and decorations, and discharge documents; vital status records such as birth and death certificates; limited information on the subjects’ spouse(s) and children; research reference materials; and the study’s reports and papers. All hard copies of materials

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SAS is a software database management and analysis system. AFHS uses SAS to electronically store and analyze data collected over the course of the study.



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