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What is a registry? VA offers a registry for you.

Military Exposures & Your Health: Information for Veterans who servedthe gulf war era and their families

A registry is defined as a system for collecting and maintaining, in a structured record, data on specific persons from a defined population, which allows for preliminary research analyses and reviews. Two broad categories of health registries are disease-based registries and exposurebased registries. A disease-based registry organizes data based on the cases of a specific disease or condition, while an exposure registry organizes data based on people who have had a common exposure. For example, a disease-based registry would focus on cases of multiple sclerosis or cancer, while the registry for the World Trade Center 9/11 workers is an exposure registry.

VA’s Post Deployment Health Services oversees six exposure registries, also called environmental health registries. Veterans who have served since 1990 may be eligible for the four following registries:

Veterans who served before 1990 may be eligible for one of the other two registries offered by Post Deployment Health Services:

The Depleted Uranium Follow-Up Program, Toxic Embedded Fragment Surveillance Center, Ionizing Radiation Registry, and Agent Orange Registry are for specific exposures, while the Gulf War Registry and Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry address a broad spectrum of exposures. For example, airborne hazards-related illnesses can be caused by ambient air pollution, smoke, dust from the desert environment, or emissions from substances incinerated in burn pits.

Registries have several advantages. Participants who join and give their contact information provide a way for VA to reach them with updates. Registries can also be tools for surveillance. Individuals within the registry can be tracked and monitored for health trends within the group. Registries can also generate ideas (hypotheses) for research on associations between exposures and disease.

Self-reported registries, however, have limitations. They are subject to recall bias (misremembering), as the deployment events may have happened over a decade ago. Self-reported registries also tend to be self-selecting, meaning some types of people may be more motivated to participate than others. For example, those with significant health issues may be more likely to participate compared those who consider themselves healthy, and so the registry data may not represent the actual health of the population. Also, registry information can be used in research studies but are not usually studies in themselves. Finally, participation in a registry does not suffice for a compensation and pension examination. One does not need to enter a registry to put in a compensation claim.

Veterans who are interested in joining a registry should contact an Environmental Health Coordinator near them. Find more information about registries from VA’s Post Deployment Health Services.

The Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry

For each person who completes the registry, the actual exposure experience will be different. This depends on which military base they lived, which year, local air pollution levels, activity, and prevailing weather conditions. The disease outcomes in the registry also vary. Currently, there are 55 broad disease categories in which participants have self-reported. One of these broad categories is cancer, of which 29 different types have been reported. Learn more about findings about reported exposures and health conditions from the registry.

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