By Jane Gervasoni, Public Affairs Office, U.S. Army Public Health CommandJuly 22, 2015
From Madagascar hissing cockroaches and mosquito larvae to food safety and the Performance Triad, students in the Havre de Grace High School, Maryland, Biomedical Program got a personal look at public health in the military during National Public Health Week.
U.S. Army Public Health Command experts celebrated National Public Health Week by teaching 44 ninth and 10th grade students about a variety of public health-related careers.
As part of the event on April 9, technical experts in ergonomics, health promotion, food safety, entomology, vector-borne disease, recycling and risk communications spoke to the students about how their technical areas supported public health for the Army and the Department of Defense.
Todd Hoover, certified exercise physiologist health education specialist in USAPHC's Health Promotion and Wellness Portfolio, captured the students attention immediately by talking about how electronic devices can help promote health. Students with fitness monitors shared the number of steps they take in a day as they learned about the importance of the Army Surgeon General's Performance Triad , which advocates that sleep, activity and nutrition are vital components of achieving good health.
"The presentation on health and the military was very interesting," said Andrea Cubberley, a ninth-grade student in the program who is interested in joining the Army.
But, as she found out, a career in health education was just one of many health-related professions that promote health in the military. The next speakers talked about a subject all the students could understand--food.
Chief Warrant Officer 4 William Warren, food safety and defense officer, and Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Gill, Veterinary Services senior non-commissioned officer, explained food safety and the ways the veterinary sciences experts ensure safe food for Soldiers and their families.
"You see containers of food in the grocery stores all the time," Gill said. "But do you know how to store food at appropriate temperatures and do you know what happens when food is not kept at the right temperature?"
Warren and Gill produced a food thermometer and showed students how to check food temperature and explained that failure to maintain food above or below the temperature danger zone of 41oF -- 135oF could cause foodborne illnesses like salmonella. They continued by explaining how foodborne illnesses can defeat an Army on the battlefield.
Luke Butler, a 10th grade student in the Biomedical Program said that he enjoyed learning about food safety and its importance to the military.
"They (Warren and Gill) explained the education they needed to learn to do their jobs which are important for the health of the Soldiers," he said.
Anne Radavich and Kevin Harkins, USAPHC entomologists, shifted the focus from foodborne illness to vector-borne diseases.
"The two most common disease vectors around the home are ticks and mosquitoes," explained the entomologists.
Showing the students a container with mosquito larvae, they explained the lifecycle of the insects and how to reduce the numbers of both ticks and mosquitoes around their homes.
Radavich, who is also an officer in the Army Reserve, told the students she became an Army entomologist, and she also explained that historically, insect- and arthropod-borne diseases have changed the outcome of battles, and through those battles, the course of wars.
"When it was time for college, I wanted to pick a major I would enjoy, and hopefully, one I would be good at," Radavich said. "After five years of 4-H Club entomology, the choice to study insects was easy."
Pat Rippey, who has spent 30 years as an environmental scientist at USAPHC, is enthusiastic about the importance and benefits of recycling. She related her specialty to the students' lives by asking them how their families recycle.
From recycling, the topic switched to ergonomics. David Kolson, USAPHC ergonomist, described how ergonomics and the musculoskeletal system related to the students classes on the human body. He then explained how ergonomists work with physical and occupational therapists, industrial hygienists and others professional specialties to protect the health of Soldiers, nurses, office-, construction- and warehouse-workers, dentists, pilots and other personnel.
Andrea Clark, USAPHC Health Risk Communication specialist, rounded out the visit by explaining the importance of communication, especially in the area of public health, and how technical experts are empowered by learning good risk communication skills.
"Risk Communication is a science-based approach for communicating effectively in high-stakes, emotionally charged, controversial situations," Clark said. "People interpret risks differently, and risk communication helps explain the science so the audience understands risks and dangers."
Clark explained that discussing science and scientific knowledge can be difficult in emotionally-charged situations. She uses her communication skills to help scientists present their information simply, openly and honestly to enable people make good, informed decisions.
Beth Martin and Lyndsey Fisher, Biomedical Science Program teachers, expressed their gratitude to the members of the USAPHC who visited the school.
"It was a great opportunity for the students to hear about career fields and how to prepare for the different careers," said Martin. "We hope that you can come back again with more of your team members and speak to the whole student body."