Partnerships enhance public health
August 8, 2014
As a global command, the U.S. Army Public Health Command is developing partnerships with organizations to help create healthy communities by collaborating in areas of shared interests.
"Many of our military families as well as our Army civilian families live outside the installation gates," explained Maj. Gen. Dean G. Sienko, USAPHC commander. "By partnering with local public health organizations we can build relationships with academic communities, sister public health organizations and others that will benefit our unique populations as well as our local communities.
"My visits to the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Association of County and City Health Officials and other organizations demonstrate our commitment to synchronize Army public health into the efforts of other public health agencies," Sienko said.
The mission of the USAPHC is to promote health and prevent disease, injury and disability of Soldiers and military retirees, their families and Department of the Army civilians. Many other organizations, such as local health departments and the CDC have similar missions but focus on different populations.
"These organizations are engaged in public health activities that have implications for our command," explained Sienko. "We have goals on a global scale that are shared with these sister organizations."
Epidemiology, disease surveillance, injury prevention and environmental and occupational health are just a few of the areas common to organizations that focus on public health.
"Other public health organizations could benefit from our knowledge in these areas as well. In this way, health lessons learned from our military personnel can be shared with other organizations," said Sienko.
Partnering with other public health organizations also fits into the Army surgeon general's "System for Health" initiative, which focuses on shifting Army medicine to preventing disease and injury.
The USAPHC is the Army medicine organization with the capability to drive that transformation.
"As the premier military public health organization, it is important that we find opportunities to share knowledge and work together to develop fresh approaches to public health concerns," according to Sienko. "These partnerships will help us showcase our expertise and our abilities."
Sienko offered one example for collaboration with military and civilian public health teams.
"In the military, we have a population that can be studied--we can look at young recruits just entering basic training. About 18 percent of these recruits used tobacco products when they came into the military," he said. "During their two to three months of basic training, they can't use tobacco products. So how do we encourage them to continue this pattern after basic training is over?"
One route to answering that question is to draw on the experience of other public health experts.
"By collaborating with the CDC, which has many of the same tobacco prevention goals, we may be able to help Soldiers stay away from tobacco once they finish basic training," he said. "This is just one possible tangible benefit of partnerships."
Sienko believes there are other benefits for the Army Public Health Command and for its public health partners.
"Our recent memorandum of understanding signed with the Johns Hopkins University recognizes their unique resources within the university and its Bloomberg School of Public Health," said Sienko. "We are looking forward to peer-to-peer collaboration and learning opportunities as well as the possibility of recruiting interns and students to enhance our workforce."
Plans continue to build on existing relationships and forge new ones.
"Because Soldiers, their families and Army civilians usually live off post, our collaborations with local health departments, academia and others will help us to reach out to our populations where they live, as well as where they work," Sienko pointed out. "Our efforts will enhance opportunities to stay healthy and to share health related information."
Opportunities to include local health department officials as members of Army Community Health Promotion Councils also will enhance services available to the military population as well as encouraging collaboration with local communities to keep them informed in the event of public health emergencies, he added.