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Leaders discuss global health collaboration as powerful tool

At an AMSUS session, Dr. Terry Rauch describes how global health activities help facilitate readiness, security and international collaboration. (Courtesy photo)  At an AMSUS session, Dr. Terry Rauch describes how global health activities help facilitate readiness, security and international collaboration. (Courtesy photo)

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NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – Health stability in the world protects our own health and homeland. That’s the message AMSUS attendees heard in a session about Department of Defense policy and approach on what is collectively called Global Health Engagement, or GHE.

The session discussion emphasized how knowledge can be a powerful and lasting tool when a community, region or nation finds itself working to prevent the spread of a deadly virus; responding to a humanitarian crisis; or building military medical skills and capabilities.   

"We live in an interesting world with a broad scope of threats to global security and stability,” said Dr. Terry Rauch, acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for health readiness policy and oversight.

Members of the DoD Global Health Engagement Council weighed in on advancing the United States military’s connection to partner countries on health matters during a session at the annual meeting of  AMSUS (The Society for Federal Health Professionals). The session titled “Strategic perspectives: Health Affairs and Policy discussing the new DoDI and strategic thinking on GHE" included a three-member panel: Rauch; Mr. Mark Swayne, acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for stability and humanitarian affairs; and, Navy Rear Adm. Colin Chinn, joint staff surgeon.

According to the session speakers, sharing best military medical practices with other nations is “a win-win.” Session attendees heard how GHE advances readiness, enhances interoperability, builds security, and helps strengthen cooperation with governments.

Standing up blood safety programs, teaching patient movement techniques, and sharing advances in trauma care with another country’s military are only a few examples of GHE in action. Panelists discussed instances where military health exchanges brought dozens of countries to the same table. While sharing information, nations develop confidence in each other. Over time, the activities create friendly ties. And, when militaries need to collaborate, the U.S. military is medically ready and able to partner with others to maintain regional stability and security.

GHE’s impact is difficult to measure, but countries that handle disease well are noticeably more secure overall. The U.S. military reaches out across the globe to help in more than a few ways. Natural disasters, climate issues, crowded cities, and territorial disputes appear all over the world. It’s no small task for any country to handle humanitarian aid and disaster recovery, reduce drug and human trafficking; or care for fleeing migrants across borders. Relationships with other nations can help all parties in these difficult situations.

Rauch explained that GHE activities enable the Combatant Commands to execute Theater Campaign Plans.  

“The DoD’s GHE activities help facilitate readiness,” said Rauch. “Engaging with our partners’ capabilities brings international partner collaboration.”  

The speakers discussed how helping partner nations builds medical capacity and skills that can reduce issues, enhance cooperation, improve how to diagnose health threats and offer better care for military, individual and population health. Plus, the remaining education from a military health exchange can sustain partner countries and their neighbors long after the US military moves on.  

Swanye identified how DoD has come a long way in coordinating and improving its approach to GHE. The Global Health Engagement Council was created to organize efforts involved with quick DoD responses, and it brings senior leaders together to focus on health security.

“The whole reason we created the GHE Council was from the lessons learned when Ebola spread across Western Africa in 2014. The Council is another step in the right direction that highlights the importance of GHE,” Swanye said.

As recently as July 12, 2017, a new DoD Instruction (DoDI 2000.30) came out that specifically defines roles and responsibilities. With this policy in place, the panelists stated there is now a way forward to achieving stronger coordination across DoD and among agencies, academic institutions, civilian health care organizations, and partner nations.

"How can we best position the United States with global peace and security? We must build relationships with partners – and, GHE helps get us closer to reaching that goal," said Chinn.

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