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...

Get to Know the Vaccines

Publication
9/17/2021

A graphic showing the types of vaccines, how they work, and safety monitoring of the vaccines. Includes the MHS and TRICARE logos on the bottom right, and includes graphics of scientists, doctors, and patients.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines

Get to know the COVID19 Vaccines

Publication
9/17/2021

Get to know the vaccines – they do not contain the live virus, they do not interact with our DNA, and have been tested rigorously.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines

Line Leader Presentation (PDF)

Publication
8/4/2021

This document is identical to the PowerPoint presentation for line leader reference and use.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

Line Leader Presentation (Powerpoint)

Publication
8/4/2021

Leaders across the Department can leverage this briefing deck to discuss COVID-19 vaccines with their troops. Don't forget to reference speaker notes and to personalize the title slide!

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

VAX Facts about Getting the COVID Vaccine at the Same Time as Others

Publication
6/9/2021

Printable PDF of VAX Fact Infographic

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | COVID-19 Vax Facts

Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines (Combined)

Publication
6/9/2021

The Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 vaccines were developed to prevent infection from the virus that causes COVID-19. Learn about the vaccines, how they work and safety precautions.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines | Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines

Publication
6/9/2021

The Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 vaccines were developed to prevent infection from the virus that causes COVID-19.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine

COVID-19 Vaccine Safety Monitoring

Publication
6/9/2021

The FDA and CDC continue to monitor the safety of COVID-19 vaccines. CDC has an independent group of experts that reviews all the safety data as it comes in and provides regular safety updates.

Recommended Content:

Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine

How COVID-19 Vaccines Work

Publication
6/9/2021

Learn how the different COVID-19 vaccines work.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine

COVID-19 Vaccine Leader Card

Publication
5/27/2021

This printable card provides talking points when discussing the COVID-19 vaccine with servicemembers who are reluctant or indifferent to accepting the vaccine. The card lists common concerns and impressions, top 5 key messages, and supporting facts about the vaccine.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines | COVID-19 Vax Facts

Unit Leader Vaccine Conversation Guide

Publication
5/24/2021

This guide offers approaches and illustrative examples for preparation, delivery, and navigation of small group discussions (recommended 1-5 people to facilitate greatest engagement) with servicemembers reluctant or indifferent to accepting the vaccine. The guide promotes an open dialogue regarding vaccine hesitancy and complacency by addressing concerns, building trust, and boosting vaccine confidence.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines | COVID-19 Vax Facts

Provider Vaccine Conversation Guide

Publication
5/24/2021

This guide offers approaches and illustrative examples for Military Health System (MHS) providers to discuss the COVID-19 vaccine with servicemembers during routine visits. Initiating a COVID-19 vaccine conversation during servicemember visits will allow you to effectively address concerns, build trust, and boost vaccine confidence.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Get to Know the COVID-19 Vaccines | COVID-19 Vax Facts

COVID-19 Vaccine Approved for Adolescents Ages 12 and Over

Publication
5/13/2021

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is approved for those ages 12 and over. Includes a photo of adolescents at the top of the page, has the TRICARE logo at the bottom right. Links in the content include www.TRICARE.mil/VaccineAppointments and www.Vaccines.gov.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Vaccine Eligibility

VAX Facts about Breastfeeding

Publication
4/21/2021

Printable PDF of VAX Fact Infographic

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | COVID-19 Vax Facts

VAX Facts How Long does Protection Last?

Publication
4/21/2021

Printable PDF of VAX Fact Infographic

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | COVID-19 Vax Facts
<< < 1 2 3 4 5 > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 5

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.