By Jane Gervasoni and Lyn KukralApril 8, 2010
The Army's public health capabilities are being integrated to form a new U.S. Army Public Health Command. The integration is part of the Army Medical Command's transformation from a "sick-care" system to a "health-care" system-one that emphasizes prevention and sustaining good health.
The USAPHC will incorporate select missions of the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine and the U.S. Army Veterinary Command. This integration will occur in phases over a two-year period that began with USACHPPM's conversion to the U.S. Army Public Health Command (Provisional) Oct. 1, 2009, and will end when the USAPHC reaches its full operational capability, targeted for Oct. 1, 2011.
Army public health focuses on promoting health and preventing disease, injury and disability in Soldiers and military retirees, their families, and Army civilian employees. As well, the USAPHC will oversee effective execution of full-spectrum veterinary services throughout the DOD.
"To facilitate a smooth transition as well as synchronize and standardize public health services, we stood up a USAPHC Transition Team," Brig. Gen. Timothy K. Adams, the USAPHC (Prov) commander said. "The team serves as an advisory team and conducts the staff analyses necessary to fully establish the USAPHC."
The team consists of several working groups with representation from MEDCOM, MEDCOM's Regional Medical Commands, USACHPPM, VETCOM, DOD Veterinary Service Activity, the Proponency Office for Preventive Medicine, and the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center.
Lead by John Resta, USAPHC (Prov) scientific advisor, and Col. Gary Vroegindewey, assistant chief of the Veterinary Corps, the team currently is developing a detailed plan to stand up the new command, starting with a concept of operations.
"This effort should cause little disruption in service to our customers," Vroegindewey said. "While the USAPHC is transforming, we expect that customers of the former USACHPPM and the VETCOM will deal with the same organizational contacts in the same locations where they currently have relationships."
Customers may not notice effects from forming the new command, but those involved in planning how it will eventually look and function are engaged in multiple brainstorming and analysis sessions, producing reams of slides and documents. The CONOPS was the first major document to test the results of these labors.
Public health services to installations will be organized under the command of regional medical commands or medical treatment facilities, he explained. Current VETCOM branches will merge with existing preventive medicine services to form unified installation-level teams.
"One of the biggest pieces of the CONOPS is developing coordinated and integrated organizational relationships to effectively execute missions of mutual interest," Resta said, noting that the Army Enterprise model is being used.
Resta said there will be five public health regions with subordinate public health command districts. The regions currently are located where the former USACHPPM subordinate commands were: Landstuhl, Germany; Camp Zama, Japan; Fort Meade, Md.; Fort Sam Houston, Texas; and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
The plan also proposes to make what was the USACHPPM headquarters a public health institute with responsibility for developing best practices and standardizing services and programs, Resta said. The institute also would provide reach-back technical expertise and one-of-a-kind services in areas such as laboratory sciences and toxicology. It will remain at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. A small headquarters element would oversee the entire USAPHC from Fort Sam Houston.
With the CONOPs approved, the next phase of the USAPHC transition can begin, Vroegindewey said. In this phase, the USAPHC (Prov) will assume operational control of the VETCOM, and the MEDCOM's continental U.S. regional medical commands will assume operational control of installation-level veterinary service assets in their areas of responsibility. The approval of the concept plan by the Department of the Army is expected to take four to six months.