Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

Public health remains an integral part in the fight against COVID

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:

MHS Toolkits and Branding Guidance | MHS Toolkits and Branding Guidance | Sexual Assault Awareness & Prevention Toolkit | Public Health | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit

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...

Addressing emotional responses to threat of Coronavirus

Article
3/20/2020
U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Kathleen A. Myhre, 446th Airman and Family Readiness Center noncommissioned officer in charge, meditates outside the 446th Airlift Wing Headquarters building on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, Feb. 12, 2020. Myhre traveled to India in 2016 to study to become an internationally-certified yoga instructor. She now shares her holistic training with Reserve Citizen Airmen of the 446th AW. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Mary A. Andom)

Even if you’re feeling healthy, medical professionals recommend staying home and limiting social contact as much as possible

Recommended Content:

Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Psychological Fitness | Physical Fitness | Combat Support | Public Health | Coronavirus | Coronavirus

Place addresses DHA COVID-19 response

Article
3/19/2020
Lt. Gen. Ronald Place, director of the Defense Health Agency, and Rear Adm. Bruce Gillingham, surgeon general of the Navy, discuss plans for additional COVID-19 response efforts with the Pentagon Press Corps.

Crisis Action Team part of broad-based effort

Recommended Content:

Combat Support | Public Health | Coronavirus | Coronavirus

DoD ready to help with Coronavirus, but capability limited

Article
3/17/2020
Misook Choe, a laboratory manager with the Emerging Infectious Disease branch at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, Md., runs a test during research into a solution for the new coronavirus, COVID-19, March 3, 2020. The Emerging Infectious Diseases branch, established in 2018, has the explicit mission to survey, anticipate and counter the mounting threat of emerging infectious diseases of key importance to U.S. forces in the homeland and abroad. (U.S. Army Sgt. Michael Walters)

The DoD has only about 2% to 3% of the number of hospital beds that the private sector has

Recommended Content:

Combat Support | Public Health | Coronavirus | Coronavirus

How DHA monitors the spread of health outbreaks

Article
3/13/2020
The Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch (AFHSB) is the central epidemiologic resource for the U.S. Armed Forces, conducting medical surveillance to protect those who serve our nation in uniform and allies who are critical to our national security interests. AFHSB provides timely, relevant, actionable and comprehensive health surveillance information to promote, maintain, and enhance the health of military and military-associated populations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nathan Lipscomb)

The Defense Health Agency works as a combat support agency to the military services and Military Health System

Recommended Content:

Combat Support | Public Health | Coronavirus | Coronavirus

DoD issues flexible instructions on response to Coronavirus

Article
3/13/2020
This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. The illness caused by this virus has been named coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). (CDC Illustration)

The memo covers aspects from before the outbreak through all levels of infection

Recommended Content:

Combat Support | Public Health | Coronavirus | Coronavirus

COVID-19: Know what the terms mean

Article
3/10/2020
Soldiers stationed on U.S. Army Garrison Casey conduct pre-screening processes on individuals awaiting entry to the base, USAG-Casey, Dongducheon, Republic of Korea, Feb. 26, 2020. Additional screening measures of a verbal questionnaire and temperature check are in response to the heighted awareness of Coronavirus (COVID-19) following a surge in cases throughout the Republic of Korea and are meant to help control the spread of COVID-19 and to protect the force. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

Learning the language can help you stay safe

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Public Health | Combat Support | Coronavirus

Coronavirus: What you need to know

Article
3/6/2020
A Guardsmen with the 341st Military Intelligence Battalion conducts translation work on a safety message regarding the best practices for avoiding the novel coronavirus for the Washington Department of Health on Feb. 9, 2020 at the Information Operations Readiness Center, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. (Courtesy Photo)

Although news stories and images contain many reports of people wearing surgical masks to ward off the virus, that's not recommended

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement | Public Health | Coronavirus | Coronavirus

DoD makes plans to combat Coronavirus

Article
3/4/2020
Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper and Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speak to reporters at the Pentagon, March 2, 2020. (DoD photo Lisa Ferdinando)

The number one priority remains to protect our forces and their families

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Public Health | Combat Support | Coronavirus

Epidemiology lab supports flu vaccine development

Article
2/11/2020
Air Force Staff Sgt. Gerald Gatlin prepares serology samples in the immunodiagnostic section of the Epidemiology Laboratory Service, also known as the ‘Epi Lab,’ at the 711th Human Performance Wing’s United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine and Public Health at Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

The lab shares information with the CDC and helps push potential changes to the influenza vaccine each year

Recommended Content:

Public Health

MHS prepared to support interagency coronavirus response

Article
2/6/2020
Airmen assist one another in donning their personal protective equipment, while on-board an Air Force C-17 Globemaster III during transportation isolation system training at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina. Engineered and implemented after the Ebola virus outbreak in 2014, the TIS is an enclosure the Department of Defense can use to safely transport patients with diseases like novel coronavirus. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cody R. Miller)

From R&D to force health protection, MHS protects DoD personnel and families

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement | Public Health | Coronavirus | Coronavirus

DoD releases guidance to protect forces from novel coronavirus

Article
1/31/2020
The novel coronavirus is a variant of other coronaviruses, such as this colorized transmission electron micrograph of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) virus particles (blue) found near the periphery of an infected VERO E6 cell (yellow). Image captured and color-enhanced at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility in Fort Detrick, Maryland. (Photo by NIAID)

Basic infection controls offer best defense against illness

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement | Public Health | Coronavirus | Coronavirus

Coronavirus: What providers, patients should know

Article
1/24/2020
Many forms of coronavirus exist among both humans and animals, but this new strain’s has caused alarm. (CDC graphic)

What to do now that virus has appeared in U.S.

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement | Public Health | Coronavirus | Coronavirus

Antibiotic resistance a serious threat that's growing, CDC warns

Article
11/15/2019
A bacteriology researcher at the Institute of Medical Research swabs an isolated sample of streptococcus pneumonia in Goroka, Papua New Guinea, June 4, 2015. The researcher is testing the bacteria to determine if the strain has sensitivity to antibiotics or if it is resistant.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marcus Morris/Released)

Newly published paper outlines issue, offers possible solutions

Recommended Content:

Conditions and Treatments | Public Health
<< < ... 26 27 > >> 
Showing results 391 - 403 Page 27 of 27

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.