By Lyn Kukral, U.S. Army Public Health CommandMarch 29, 2012
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - There are 525,600 minutes in a year. In those minutes, we
work, play, socialize, sleep and conduct all of the activities that make up our lives.
The average Soldier or Family member also spends 100 of those minutes with a doctor, nurse or other healthcare provider.
"We have 100 minutes a year with our patients," Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho pointed out to healthcare providers at this year's Military Health System conference.
"We focus the majority of our peacetime [healthcare] budgets on those 100 minutes, but are we truly influencing health?"
Influencing health, or more correctly helping you to be healthier, is where the U.S. Army Public Health Command comes in.
"Army public health is all about helping Soldiers and retirees,
their Families, and Army civilians to build and sustain good
health," said Maj. Gen. Jimmie O. Keenan, USAPHC commander.
"National Public Health Week (April 2--8) is a good
time to highlight some of the things Army public health does."
Keenan emphasized that there are two keys to building good health in what the surgeon general called "the white space"--the time between visits to a healthcare provider. Those keys are empowerment and prevention.
"One of our command's goals is to empower our beneficiaries to take greater control of their health," Keenan said. "We want to give them the tools they need--effective programs and information--so they can reach their health goals. We also want them to understand how things like maintaining healthy weight, exercising, not smoking and not drinking to excess contribute to their health," she said.
The other key, prevention of disease and injury, is the heart of USAPHC's mission.
"Prevention is better for the individual than even the best healing and rehabilitation Army Medicine can provide," Keenan said. "I don't know anyone who would rather go to the hospital than stay active and healthy."
In addition, prevention is better for military units because it ensures higher readiness through fewer lost-duty days, and better for the military healthcare system because it contributes to better stewardship of healthcare dollars, she explained.
Since its establishment in October 2009, USAPHC has focused on its public health efforts on building partnerships. Working with installations, garrisons and military medical treatment facilities, Army public health experts advise commanders and leaders about a broad range of public health initiatives and preventive actions. All have the basic goals of encouraging healthy behaviors, standardizing public health efforts according to best practices (methods that are scientifically valid and that work), creating healthy work environments and installations, and preventing disease and injury.
"Army Public Health touches so many aspects of our community life that it isn't a term that can be defined in a sentence or two," Keenan said.
Some examples of USAPHC's public health activities include the following:
If you live on an Army installation, USAPHC helps ensure your drinking water is pure.
If you shop in a commissary, USAPHC veterinary food inspectors make sure the food you buy is safe to eat.
If you're doing PT with your unit, USAPHC helped develop fitness program standards that minimize injuries while maximizing your strength and endurance.
If you've ever deployed, your predeployment medical threat brief was provided to your unit by the USAPHC.
If you've ever sat in a Stryker or used an Army weapon, USAPHC likely tested its design to minimize the health risks from operating it.
If you use Army-approved vision or hearing devices, USAPHC made sure your goggles and earplugs met high standards of protection.
If you carry an "ACE" (Ask-Care-Escort) card in your pocket, that card--and the training behind it--was developed at the USAPHC. USAPHC programs, from Army Wellness Centers to the e-Catalog of public health information, help build and sustain the good health of individuals and units in the "white space" between healthcare visits.
For information and product ordering, visit http://phc.amedd.army.mil.