The Institute of Medicine was asked to provide guidance on the future of the Air Force Health Study (AFHS, also known as the Ranch Hand Study), a long-term epidemiologic analysis of Air Force personnel who conducted aerial spraying of herbicides during the Vietnam War.
The committee's final report, Disposition of the Air Force Health Study, concluded that the medical records, data, and biological specimens collected in the study, which closed on September 30, 2006, were a trove of valuable research material.
It recommended that--after the Air Force Health Study's scheduled end--these assets be made available to researchers, through a custodian that takes an active role in fostering their use. Several options for managing the assets were presented. No matter where the AFHS materials go, that custodian would need a secure source of funding. The report also recommended that Congress allocate at least $250,000 annually for three years to promote research using the data and specimens.