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...

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

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

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

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

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

Enhancing Public Health Interoperability for the Joint Force

Article Around MHS
11/10/2022
Army Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Hall teaches a class

Members of Army Public Health Command Europe strengthened their partnership with sister services in a U.S. Air Force led Public Health Emergency Management training exercise held at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

Recommended Content:

Building Partner Capacity and Interoperability | Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief | Public Health

Get Protected With New COVID-19 Booster and Flu Vaccine

Article Around MHS
10/24/2022
Military medical personnel administering vaccine

There are two vaccines you should consider getting this Fall, and now you can get them both at the same time.

Recommended Content:

Immunizations | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Seasonal Influenza Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine

Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center Holds Town Hall in Advance of DHA Transition

Article Around MHS
10/24/2022
Military personnel speaks at NMCPHS town hall event

The Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center held a town hall meeting on Oct. 12 at their Portsmouth, Virginia, headquarters, in advance of their transition to the Defense Health Agency (DHA) Public Health directorate.

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Military Health System Transformation

Collaborating In the ER: Reservists Assist, Learn in Community Hospitals

Article Around MHS
10/20/2022
Military medical personnel in medical training session

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic–when there were no vaccines, a shortage of health care workers, and hospitals were beyond capacity– the U.S. health care system needed help. Here's one of many ways the Department of Defense answered the call.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response

NAMI Recompression Chamber Supports Area Training Missions, Operations

Article Around MHS
8/29/2022
Military personnel demos compression chamber

Scuba diving can be extremely dangerous, and it’s possible for divers to develop adverse medical conditions and injuries while performing underwater operations. A common diving injury is decompression sickness (DCS), also referred to as the “bends”.

Recommended Content:

Public Health

New Army Policy Better Enables Victims to Report Sexual Assault

Article Around MHS
8/19/2022
Military personnel at Sexual Assault Prevention Program

A new policy recently implemented by the Army is designed to help remove possible barriers that may prevent Soldiers from reporting sexual assault.

Recommended Content:

Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention | Women's Health | Psychological Fitness

Mpox Declared Public Health Emergency: What Airmen and Guardians Need to Know

Article Around MHS
8/4/2022
Microscopic view of monkeypox virus

The World Health Organization declared mpox a public health emergency on July 23. With more than 4,000 cases in the United States, Airmen and Guardians should know the risks and how to stay safe.

Recommended Content:

Mpox | Public Health

Four-legged Major Brings Joy to Brooke Army Medical Center

Article Around MHS
6/23/2022
Labrador facility dogs at ceremony

Brooke Army Medical Center commissioned a new, four-legged staff member with a penchant for spreading joy to the rank of United States Army major during a ceremony June 6.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health

How my sexual assault shaped me but did not break me

Article Around MHS
4/18/2022
Air Force Staff Sgt. Kayla White

Joining the military was an intense, transformational experience filled with rites of passage, experiences designed to prepare me to act as a member of a team and conform so I could truly commit to something bigger than myself. One unexpected and devastating experience during my initial training changed me forever.

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness | Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention
<< < 1 2 3 > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 3
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