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Regional Health Command-Pacific Paves Way for Global Health Engagements in 2016

By Brad Cogswell and Emily Yeh | Regional Health Command-Pacific Public Affairs | Dec. 27, 2016

HONOLULU, Hawaii -- It is through strong partnerships with U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) and U.S. Army in the Pacific (USARPAC) that Army Medicine's Regional Health Command-Pacific (RHC-P) is able to commit the resources to provide greater physical and mental well-being through rapidly growing global health engagements.

RHC-P alongside other U.S. government agencies, partner nations and global health stakeholders are constantly redefining, and refining, global health activities to improve the well-being of citizens in the Pacific. The combined efforts increase stability and cooperation in the Pacific and beyond. Global health efforts are also inextricably linked to other disciplines and society sectors such as agriculture, economics, environment, religion and veterinary science which continually impact the global health field.

Every engagement RHC-P commits resources to enhances our regional health partnerships and ensures our nation's military force is ready to support any mission.

Global health activities are accomplished through various operations and activities including conferences, bi-lateral subject matter expert exchanges, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercises as well as medical support to operational missions in conjunction with partner nations.

RHC-P's involvement with global health engagements has also allowed the region to gain credibility among the 36 Indo-Asia-Pacific countries in our area of responsibility.

"Army medicine has gained credibility as a partner of choice through our persistent health engagements with nations here in the Pacific," says Lt. Col. Derek Licina, director, GHE, RHC-P. "We are still shaping how Army Medicine and the Department of Defense more systematically resource, plan, execute and assess global health engagements. However, initial evaluations conducted by the Uniformed Services University Center for Global Health Engagement highlight GHEs are supporting U.S. government strategic objectives, generating readiness for our service members, and increasing the capacity of our partners to prepare for and conduct crisis response activities."

Over the past few years RHC-P has conducted approximately 60 health engagements, involving over 20 of the 36 countries in RHC-P's area of responsibility in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. The activities ranged from medical missions in partner countries to senior leader engagements at the region and at RHC-P's military medical centers and clinics.

Here is a quick look back at the 2016 health missions and senior leader engagements RHC-P conducted.

BANGLADESH

RHC-P's efforts in Bangladesh support a U.S. Agency for International Development program where Army providers and Bangladesh civilian medical professionals assist women by surgically repairing fistulas. This mission also provides readiness training for providers while meeting country security cooperation objectives. During the most recent mission, 36 surgeries were performed and 13 lectures presented at leading medical facilities attended by over 800 Bangladeshi health professionals.

CAMBODIA

During the blood safety health engagement series, health professionals from RHC-P established and built upon relationships with Cambodia's military medical staff and civilian provincial health managers. The team's efforts facilitated a broad outreach effort to promote confidence and trust within the community and advanced Army Medicine objectives in support of PACOM and USARPAC's strategic objectives. The result was the opening of a critical asset, a national blood bank in Cambodia. This health engagement effort enhances Cambodia's ability to provide critical support to the civilian population, while supporting land forces contribution to regional and global security.

CHINA

During the fall, RHC-P supported USARPAC and USPACOM efforts to engage China through a subject matter expert exchange focusing on acupuncture. Through the exchange, each nation increased their understanding of other unique approaches to health based on culture and science. The Chinese delegation gained a deeper understanding of how RHC-P's military treatment facilities uses western and eastern medicine, while RHC-P gained insight into how traditional Chinese medicine can potentially assist with the management of patients with chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder and in response to disaster situations.

The visit by the Chinese delegation builds upon, and continues, subject matter expert exchanges between the two nations.

KINGDOM OF THAILAND

A senior leader engagement between RHC-P and the Kingdom of Thailand provided the leaders in the Thai delegation a better understanding of how RHC-P orchestrates the delivery of world-class medical care for service members, families and eligible beneficiaries while enabling medical readiness and conducting health diplomacy in the Pacific.

RHC-P leadership recognized the Thai's significant contributions to past global health engagements and regional exercises and encouraged future support and participation. Leaders from both sides expressed interest in identifying future ways to leverage health engagements to build upon a regionally sustainable health capacity that supports regional security.

PALAU

RHC-P's Tripler Army Medical Center (TAMC) continued a long standing health mission with the Palau Ministry of Health. This mission provides significant training value for both countries' medical professionals while offering specialized surgical procedures for Palau citizens in need.

For RHC-P Soldiers this on-going mission improves operational and deployment skill sets, enhances medical decision making in a resource constrained environment and increases medical proficiencies in foreign environments. During the most recent mission, providers also offered medical training to local medical staff on the evaluation and treatment of diseases of the head and neck.

Over 400 outpatients were seen using more than 100 clinic procedures and 35 operative cases during this mission.

SINGAPORE

TAMC, one of RHC-P's largest subordinate military treatment facilities, supported an outbreak detection and intervention workshop in Singapore where the Department of Preventive Medicine -- Infection Control & Epidemiology Service joined 41 participants from Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam and the United States to improve infectious disease surveillance. Participants came from a diversity of backgrounds including health policy, epidemiology, public health and veterinary medicine.

The group worked together to advocated for decisive, safe, and effective outbreak response mechanisms, avenues to support the adoption of the International Health Regulation and worked towards sensitizing medical and disaster planners to ethical considerations in outbreak response. The course covered outbreak surveillance and intervention in a progression of differing contexts. There were didactic sessions, tabletop and risk communication exercises, Ebola triage exercises as well as practical exercises.

SRI LANKA

During an engagement in Sri Lanka, RHC-P taught humanitarian assistance/disaster relief (HA/DR) planning techniques to civilians, military and interagency governmental partners. The HA/DR mission established a relationship with local and interagency military medical staff to provide general medical, dental, optometry, and physical medicine care to underserved population in the host country. A medical exchange with subject matter experts on casualty evacuation, biomedical equipment repair and community public health outreach programs were also conducted.

The HA/DR effort also included an engineering project to repair local schools and public buildings while delivering medical services and donating medical supplies and equipment to the school. A total of almost 4000 patients were seen over five days. This mission was successful in enhancing multi-national cooperation and improving local infrastructure and capabilities.

VIETNAM

A seven-person Vietnamese delegation visited RHC-P for a command brief and tour of TAMC. The visit allowed leaders from both countries to share professional experiences in an effort to further strengthen the military medical and health partnerships in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

The Vietnamese delegates expressed interest in future opportunities to work on building and expanding on sustainable health capacity in areas such as laboratory management, orthopedics, pain management, search and rescue, and disaster medicine.

Future of Global Health Engagements at RHC-P

As RHC-P continues to move forward in the year 2017 and beyond, the region alongside PACOM and USARPAC, will strengthen and sustain relationships and friendships already forged, build new relationships and continue to provide quality health care to those in need or without access to basic or specialized medical care around the Pacific.

Planning for on-going and future global health engagements requires a focus on promoting cooperation, building capacity and taking actions to enhance stability with, within and around partner and host nations across all service components as well as with other stakeholders.

RHC-P's global health engagement team is also helping to set the standard for all service branches participating in health engagements efforts. The team recently attended the Association of Military Surgeons United States' (AMSUS) 125th annual meeting. At AMSUS the team presented a poster and participated in a panel to share experience based best practices which generated interest among attendees as a way to standardize global health efforts, approaches and standard operating procedures for future global health engagements.

RHC-P's global health efforts seek to prevent disease and improve the health of systems and of individuals. It is done best when health activities are coordinated, sequenced in concert with other stakeholders and complementary to the country's own health plan. The knowledge learned and hard work from past activities paves the way for future, successful, health engagements in the Pacific.
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