By Rear Adm. C. Forrest Faison III
Last week I was invited to speak on a panel about global health engagement at the annual meeting of the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States (AMSUS) in Washington, D.C.
December is global health engagement month, so the topic is timely. Global health engagement is a critical part of the Navy and Marine Corps mission. Global reach, forward presence and maritime security are all enhanced by a ready, agile medical force – one that is also globally engaged, around the world, every day. If you look at the world, 80% of the population lives within 100 miles of the ocean. Most of the world’s largest cities are also within 100 miles the ocean. It’s no coincidence that our Navy and Marine Corps team and medical personnel are deployed at sea ready to serve when called upon.
Theater Security Cooperation
Navy Medicine supports annual enduring missions worldwide, building relationships with partners and allies to help improve their health care and increase our strategic alliances. During these missions, such as Pacific Partnership and Continuing Promise, we visit a variety of different countries to help build capacity so we’re ready to respond when a disaster occurs. In addition, we have health affairs advisors stationed worldwide; coordinating international programs related to global health security and cooperation activities. At the same time, these advisors help us prepare for future health threats. We also participate in personnel or knowledge exchanges with foreign militaries to build relationships by promoting national security interests, sharing information, and cooperative partnerships.
Health Threat Mitigation
A team of Navy Medicine liaison officers work on-site at other organizations, such as the World Health Organization, to better integrate complimentary medical efforts across the government and with our partners. These liaison officers educate other organizations about the Navy’s medical capabilities, and keep us informed of emerging trends and threats so that we are prepared to respond globally. Navy Medicine also has several medical research labs around the world that play a vital role in global health threat mitigation. The medical researchers in these facilities are conducting state-of-the-art research on a variety of global health threats every day.
Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response
Humanitarian assistance and disaster response is another key pillar of Navy Medicine’s global health engagement. Right now in West Africa we have mobile labs working around the clock to provide support to the ongoing Ebola response effort. When a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck the Republic of Haiti in January 2010, the hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) was activated within five days, fully provisioned and fully staffed with a medical crew ready to start saving lives immediately. Humanitarian assistance efforts such as these underscore the value of building presence and partnerships so that when disasters do occur, we aren’t forging those relationships and trust for the first time.
Providing support to theater security cooperation, health threat mitigation and humanitarian assistance and disaster response is vital to achieving readiness, adding value, and enhancing jointness across our sister services. Building partnerships and alliances better enables us to respond as a global health care team and ultimately save lives on a global scale.
With our sister Services and our international partners, we truly are one team!