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NEWS | July 7, 2022

International Health Summit held to enhance regional crisis response

U.S. Indo-Pacific Command

SINGAPORE – The Command Surgeons for U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, Australian Defense Force (ADF) Joint Health Surgeon, and Singapore Armed Forces Surgeon hosted the second Military-Civilian Health Security Summit June 27-28, 2022, in Singapore. The summit focused on regional approaches to global health security through interagency cooperation and planning in order to develop and strengthen capabilities to respond to health security threats.

The summit brought together practitioners, researchers, educators and decision-makers from the military and civilian communities of 25 nations. They discussed topics such as how military and security sectors supported civilian authorities in the COVID-19 response, analyzing the roles the defense and security sector played in that response, exercise planning and execution capacity for Global Health Security, and exploring the second-order impacts for health security preparedness.

“The second Military-Civilian Health Security Summit is a perfect opportunity to demonstrate that global challenges necessitate a multilateral and multisectoral solution,” said Rear Adm. Pamela Miller, the USINDOPACOM Command Surgeon, during her opening remarks. “With all of our partners present today, we can work to advance our collective health security and improve interoperability across sectors and borders.”

The last several years of the COVID-19 pandemic has taught everyone the importance of health, security, and global health security from a regional perspective, Miller said. No country can tackle a problem of a pandemic or any other health security threat alone. It truly takes cooperation and participation from allies and partners in the region to be successful.

“Every single nation has unique capabilities that support preparedness and response to health security threats,” Miller added. “Getting to know colleagues across sectors and borders and understanding each other’s processes, systems, capacities, and limitations is key to ensuring that we develop the most comprehensive and realistic plans.”

The defense and security sector’s key capabilities, for example, is the ability to conduct regional training with health security relevance – ranging from humanitarian assistance to disaster relief and more, said Miller. This can be leveraged to train personnel in other organizations for integrated health security preparedness.

“Training and exercises are what prudent, professional militaries do to remain combat ready,” Miller said. “As a global health security community, we must train and plan to maintain readiness and address health security threats, regardless of their source. We must work together across sectors and learn from each other to support a true whole-of-society approach to health security planning and response.”

Every country has something to contribute to this effort, she said. It is about marrying up who has resources with who has subject matter experts in the region and capitalizing on their unique understanding.

“There may be cultural-unique challenges or opportunities that will require a different approach to medicine in certain countries,” Miller continued. “Those subject matter experts are going to be quite pivotal to our success in any planning effort.

“And what really cements our ability to be successful in these regional efforts is personal relationships. We have to build the trust and understanding of each other's capabilities and limitations.”

This could be something such as knowing what is required in crisis situations in areas of manning, equipment and facilities and having a mechanism to acquire and deliver those requirements to the point of need, said Miller. Those processes need to be defined before a crisis.

“You start planning what the challenges are going to be – like personnel shortages,” said Miller. “People are going to be sick, there may be a lack of access to certain products and other resources are going to be in very high demand. That can now be predicted more effectively.”

Part of these predictive models are created when we coordinate with the logistics experts, study the experiences gained in recent years, and plan to navigate that futuristic scenario so those services can be delivered where it is needed, she said.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that we need to make changes to our approaches to pandemic prevention and planning,” Miller said. “As we analyze the successes and challenges in our COVID-19 response and work to build and modernize our own capacities to prevent, detect, and respond to health threats, a clear understanding of the international frameworks that govern global health security will be more important than ever.”

This in-depth approach advances transparency and upholds the rule of law, and other principles that underpin security and prosperity, she said. It also helps promote the countries’ shared values and preserve the independence and self-determination of each nation in the Indo-Pacific region.

“There are true success stories across this region,” said Miller. “Those military and civilian partnerships that existed before were bolstered and really synergized during this pandemic response. Those relationships and new operating principles are going to be sustained and is going to benefit all of us going forward.”

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