Skip to main content

Military Health System

Public health remains an integral part in the fight against COVID

Image of Infographic featuring health personnel wearing face shields and mask with "National Public Health Week" across the top of the picture. National Public Health Week 2021 runs from April 5-11.

Recommended Content:

Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention | Public Health | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine

Although they may not be the ones putting needles in arms, public health personnel continue to play a crucial role in the ongoing battle against COVID-19. Often, this means keeping track of virus-related data, as well as facilitating the flow of information to both internal and external audiences.

"Public health's role in combatting COVID is very similar to our role in anything else related to communicable disease, which is a large portion of what we do," said Air Force Public Health Career Field Manager Chief Master Sgt. Sheryl Green. "We do a lot of risk communication — working with commanders and making sure we're messaging appropriately to our communities and vice versa, making sure those communities have access to those commanders."

This means ensuring information gets to its intended receivers. It also includes forming partnerships and coordinating with local health departments to make sure that efforts on installations better reflect what is happening in nearby communities.

"Communication is huge, not just on base but also within our civilian communities and civilian agencies," said Green.

The information that is being disseminated needs to be easily understood and easily acted on.

"Through outcomes from products such as surveillance, data modeling, and business analytics, we've been able to inform and assist the operational community with planning, logistics, tracking, forecasting and medical intelligence," said United States Public Health Service Capt. Kimberly Elenberg, chief of the Defense Health Agency's Total Force Fitness Division. "Further, a key role for public health professionals has been the interpretation of complex data into easily understood, actionable information."

Additionally, DHA's Immunization Healthcare Division has played a key role in providing critical information to beneficiaries through publishing articles explaining the vaccines, participating in social media events, conducting stakeholder briefings, and leading question-and-answer sessions at local events.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Green said much of the focus has been on stopping the spread.

"Breaking the chain of infection" is a term that is near and dear to us, and that's where contact tracing comes into play," said Green. "A large focus of the COVID response has been contact tracing and trying to figure out who has been exposed and what that picture looks like for each community."

Within the Air Force, she said, public health is closely involved in tracking the number of positive cases, as well as the number of vaccinations being administered by its clinicians.

"In regard to surveillance and testing, our responsibility is to maintain close communication with the laboratory community and making sure we have visibility of all positive tests," said Green.

Public health's function is mirrored throughout the services.

"Our staff have worked tirelessly to make sure policies were synthesized and updated based on the latest research and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, interpreted in the unique context of Naval operations, and shared with operational decision-makers," said Navy Capt. (Dr.) Jesse Geibe, executive officer of operations at Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center in Portsmouth, Virginia. "Whether we are advising on masking, testing and surveillance strategies, the impact of vaccination, or myriad other COVID-19 issues, we keep the health of our sailors and Marines and completion of the mission first and foremost."

Green said that, while public health professionals have become much more flexible and agile over the past year, the traditional role of public health hasn't necessarily changed.

"The scope has obviously gotten much larger, which has caused them to have to rework how they approach disease tracking and tracing from an overall perspective, and they've done an amazing job doing that," said Green.

Military health personnel setting up a trap for mosquitos
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Brandi Spriggs, 97th Medical Operations Squadron health technician, sets up a dry ice trap to catch mosquitoes during the Zika virus outbreak in August 2016 (Photo by: Air Force Arman 1st Class Cody Dowell, 97th Air Wing Mobility Public Affairs). 

Green said one of the biggest lessons learned over the course of the pandemic has been in training.

"We train on disease surveillance and epidemiology and outbreak investigation, but not necessarily something of this scale," said Green. "That's definitely something we need to look at as we move forward - our training, how we have that established, and the different types of training that we provide."

Specifically, the pandemic has highlighted a need to provide more advanced training on infection prevention and control.

"We have to make sure our individuals are prepared, with the knowledge and capability to effectively support pandemic response in the field," said Green.

An additional lesson learned, and one not confined to public health, is the need to prevent or reduce fatigue in front-line health care workers.

Green reiterated the appreciation she has for what the public health community has had to endure, but also what they've been able to accomplish over the past year.

"The American Public Health Association has called this the most challenging public health crisis of our lifetimes," Green said. "I think our personnel have done a tremendous job while being on the front lines since the beginning and they continue to do wonderful work under extremely stressful, prolonged conditions."

A positive takeaway from the pandemic response is that it has prepared the public health community, and the military medical community at large, for what may come next.

"We don't know how long this is going to go on or what the next crisis will be. We've certainly dealt with outbreaks before - Ebola, Zika, H1N1 - but what is the next big pandemic-type disease going to be?" asked Green. "Based on the experience that all of our public health professionals have gained over the past year, they will absolutely be ready for anything that comes their way in the future."

Within the DHA, the inter-service pandemic response has shown the potential for greater interoperability between the services going forward.

"The coordination among the service public health entities has been invaluable in combating the COVID pandemic, which does not care what color uniform a service member is wearing. While health surveillance within the DOD has always been conducted to the highest scientific standards, it is now done through the lens of improving the medical readiness of the individual service member," said Army Col. Douglas Badzik, Armed Forces Health Surveillance division chief.

Geibe echoed this point.

"Public health work with other medical professionals in the fleet, Marine Corps and Military Health System has been significantly enhanced to include sharing information on outbreaks to slow the spread, investigating sources through contact tracing, and providing collaborative support for testing and immunization," he said.

During the first full week of April each year, the APHA brings together communities across the United States to observe National Public Health Week as a time to recognize the contributions of public health and highlight issues that are important to improving our nation's health. This year, NPHW runs from April 5-11.

You also may be interested in...

Genome Sequencing Assists Research at Naval Health Research Center

Article
1/24/2023
Lab technicians doing genome research

Learn how unique samples from naval vessels, US-Mexico border populations, and DOD beneficiaries aided in the Naval Health Research Center’s sequencing efforts.

Recommended Content:

Research & Innovation | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Coronavirus

Toxicologists Hold Vital Role in Protecting DOD Workforce

Article Around MHS
1/20/2023
Toxicologist working in laboratory

Among the DOD's priorities, protecting warfighters from enemy combatants and weapons is critical. But there are other scenarios, when undetected, that pose threat to the health of our military. Find out why that makes the job of a DOD toxicologists so important.

Recommended Content:

Public Health

U.S. Military HIV Research Lends Lessons Learned to COVID-19

Article
1/19/2023
Gloved hands working in laboratory

The U.S. military has engaged in HIV research for three decades, contributing critical lessons learned, knowledge, and expertise during the COVID-19 research and vaccine development effort.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response | DOD HIV/AIDS Prevention Program | Research & Innovation | Coronavirus

Public Health Nutritionist Shares Strategies, Resources for Meeting New Year Weight Loss Goals

Article Around MHS
1/12/2023
healthy food infographic

Don't give up on your 2023 resolution to lose weight! We've gathered some unique tips, tools, and strategies to help you stay the course and meet your goals.

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Nutritional Fitness

Naval Medical Research Center Uses Genome Sequencing for Variants

Article
1/12/2023
Military personnel pose for a group photo

NMRC’s efforts provided important support for sequencing and viral isolation to the Department of Defense and Military Health System.

Recommended Content:

Research & Innovation | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Coronavirus

USAMRIID Focuses on Genome Sequencing to Detect Variants

Article
1/5/2023
Military medical personnel in laboratory

A connected family of laboratories across the MHS allows a more rapid response to the outbreak.

Recommended Content:

Research & Innovation | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Coronavirus

Whole Genome Sequencing at Tripler Army Medical Center

Article
12/29/2022
Dr. Keith Fong reviews data with other lab technicians

The third installment in a 6-part series highlighting the efforts of the Military Health System laboratories and the technicians who worked to identify COVID-19 variants using special sequencing technology.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Research & Innovation | Coronavirus

Walter Reed Army Institute of Research Implements SARS-CoV-2 Genome Sequencing

Article
12/23/2022
Military medical personnel in laboratory

This is the second article in a 6-part series that highlights the work of technicians and scientists in Military Health System laboratories who worked to identify COVID-19 variants using special sequencing technology.

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Research & Innovation

Protect Yourself With Respiratory Illnesses on the Rise

Article Around MHS
12/19/2022
Military medical personnel administering vaccine

"Tis the season, and respiratory illnesses are on the rise. Learn critical health guidance about the viral triple threat of COVID-19, influenza, and the common cold, and the commonsense steps you can take to protect yourself and your family.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Children's Health | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Immunization Tool Kit | Influenza, Northern Hemisphere | Immunization Healthcare Division

Military Labs Use Whole Genome Sequencing of COVID-19 Variants

Article
12/16/2022
Lab technician at work

The first in a 6-part series highlighting the work of technicians and scientists working in support of the MHS who identified COVID-19 variants using special sequencing technology.

Recommended Content:

Research & Innovation | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Coronavirus

DOD Reduces Health Care Waste by Reusing Crutches

Article
12/15/2022
Military personnel using crutches

When military facilities faced a national shortage of an essential mobility aid, they launched a grassroots initiative that not only ensured patient care, but also created a new waste reduction model within the DHA.

Recommended Content:

Warrior Care | Coronavirus & the MHS Response

Public Health Nurses: Heroes for Health

Article Around MHS
12/14/2022
U.S. Navy Cmdr. Tracy R. Kraus head shot

In a world where public health is constantly being challenged, the need for front-line contenders in the fight against threats is rapidly increasing. The work of the Public Health Nurse is nothing short of heroic. Learn more about the extraordinary dedication and arduous work it takes for Public Health Nurses to keep the warfighter population healthy and fit to fight and win.

Recommended Content:

Public Health

Big Hearts from Small, Small Places

Article Around MHS
12/13/2022
Military personnel demonstrating CPR

Sailors stand in a red and white metal space filled with folded wheelchairs and various medical equipment, each paired with a plastic torso and dummy infant at their feet. All eyes are fixed on the only voice in the room. The voice, carefully but clearly asking questions and giving out instructions, comes from a woman adorned in blue coveralls with her dark hair pulled back in a neat bun. U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd class Johana Chi, from a small town in El Salvador, teaches CPR.

Recommended Content:

Public Health

MHS Minute | Nov 2022

Video
12/12/2022
MHS Minute | Nov 2022

The latest MHS Minute focuses on highlights from DHA Director Lt. Gen. Ronald J. Place’s final virtual town hall with the workforce, Nov. 16, 2022. The discussion included the agency’s biggest accomplishments over the past three years and the impact of COVID-19 on DHA’s reputation and approach to health care delivery.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus

Naval Medical Research Center Joint Study with Mount Sinai Uncovers Differences in COVID-19 Immune Response between the Sexes

Article Around MHS
12/5/2022
Amanda Cherry, research assistant, performing diagnostic testing at NMRC

A collaborative study between researchers at Naval Medical Research Center and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and Princeton University has highlighted immune response differences in the coronavirus infection responses between male and female patients.

Recommended Content:

Medical Research and Development | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Coronavirus
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 57
Refine your search
Last Updated: December 29, 2022
Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on YouTube Sign up on GovDelivery