Every day, U.S. Armed Forces service members face distinct health challenges that include higher rates of chronic disease and behavioral health concerns, according to America’s Health Rankings’ latest Health of Those Who Have Served report. To help address those needs, the United Health Foundation is committing $1.25 million as part of a three-year partnership with the Florida State University (FSU) College of Nursing to help nurse practitioners better address the distinct health needs of individuals who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces.

The partnership with FSU College of Nursing will create a new graduate-level concentration in Military Health to train nurse practitioners to provide high-quality care for active-duty military service members, veterans, citizen soldiers and their families. To help expand the capacity of the existing workforce, the effort will also enable FSU to offer new continuing education units for practicing nurse practitioners on military cultures and evidence-based interventions to improve military and veteran health.

Funding will also support the first annual Military and Veterans Mental Health Conference on September 25, hosted by the College of Nursing.

“Through research by the United Health Foundation and others, we know that those who serve in the U.S. Armed Forces often have unique health needs connected to their service throughout their lives. And many of these health needs may go unrecognized in our health system,” said Patricia Horoho, chief executive officer of OptumServe — part of UnitedHealth Group. During her 33-year Army career, Horoho led the U.S. Army Nurse Corps and was the first nurse and woman appointed to serve as surgeon general of the U.S. Army and commanding general of the U.S. Army Medical Command. “I am excited about this partnership with the Florida State College of Nursing to prepare a new generation of health care providers who are able to better recognize and treat the distinct health needs of service members, veterans and their families.”

Nearly 23 million Americans living today have served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces. Florida alone has the third-largest veteran population in the nation, with 1,525,400 veterans. According to the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease, access to better prevention and treatment options could save the lives of almost 12,000 Floridians with chronic diseases each year.

“Equipping our future health care workforce with the understanding and skills necessary to address the health care needs of our military, veterans and their families is a top priority,” said Laurie Grubbs, interim dean of the FSU College of Nursing. “Thanks to the United Health Foundation, we can prepare a new generation of health care providers specialized in Military Health so they are better prepared to meet veterans’ needs across Florida and the nation.”

UnitedHealth Group — including UnitedHealthcare, Optum and the United Health Foundation — has a long-standing commitment to developing a health workforce that is best equipped to meet the customized needs of patients, including military service members, veterans and their families. UnitedHealth Group partners with organizations nationwide to promote education and career opportunities for veterans and their families. For example, UnitedHealth Group’s Military Internship Program, in partnership with the Department of Defense SkillBridge program, gives active-duty service members career skills training and workforce reintegration before they transition out of the military. The program has successfully converted 77% of interns into employees with 91% retention to date. UnitedHealth Group and OptumServe were also recently ranked Top Ten in the nation on the 2021 Military Friendly® Employers list for investing in programs to recruit, retain and advance veterans within their organizations.