Back to Top Skip to main content

Global Health Engagement strengthens partnerships

U.S. Navy Capt. Michael Sullivan, a pediatrician assigned to the hospital ship USNS Comfort, gives a sticker to a two-year-old boy after examining his skin infection at a temporary medical treatment site in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. During Comfort’s deployment, the crew worked with health and government partners in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean to provide care on the ship and at a temporary medical treatment site, helping to relieve pressure on national medical systems, including those strained by an increase in cross-border migrants. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Maria G. Llanos) U.S. Navy Capt. Michael Sullivan, a pediatrician assigned to the hospital ship USNS Comfort, gives a sticker to a two-year-old boy after examining his skin infection at a temporary medical treatment site in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. During Comfort’s deployment, the crew worked with health and government partners in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean to provide care on the ship and at a temporary medical treatment site, helping to relieve pressure on national medical systems, including those strained by an increase in cross-border migrants. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Maria G. Llanos)

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement | Global Health Engagement

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar describes the work of the international crew of the USNS Comfort as “near miraculous.” He was aboard the U.S. Navy hospital ship during its deployment to South America earlier this year and saw firsthand the impact of forward deployed health and humanitarian assistance missions.

On board, he met a man who had been blind for several years. The Comfort and its staff performed cataract surgery, restoring the man’s sight. After the procedure, “he actually looked up and the first thing he saw was a clock on the wall and pointed to it,” Azar recalled. “He said he hadn’t seen a clock in a decade.”

Azar recounted this story Dec. 3 at the 2019 annual meeting of the Society of Federal Health Professionals, calling it and the mission of the Comfort as “perfect examples of international humanitarian cooperation and the great American generosity made possible by our men and women in uniform and our medical professionals and civilian servants throughout the U.S. government.”

In all, the Comfort’s deployment touched the lives of nearly 69,000 people in 12 countries in South America, Central America, and the Caribbean through dental work, surgeries, family medicine, and eye exams. Medics also distributed nearly 31,000 pairs of prescription eyeglasses.

The Comfort deployment underscores the Department of Defense’s commitment to its role in Global Health Engagement, a critical driver to advance U.S. national security interests around the world.

U.S. Military Sealift Command Cmdr. Andrew Chen, chief mate aboard the hospital ship USNS Comfort, (right), gives U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Lee E. Payne, (center), assistant director for Combat Support, Defense Health Agency, and Tom McCaffery, assistant secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, a tour of the ship while off the coast of Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. Comfort is working with health and government partners in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean to provide care on the ship and at land-based medical sites, helping to relieve pressure on national medical systems, including those strained by an increase in cross-border migrants. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jordan R. Bair)
U.S. Military Sealift Command Cmdr. Andrew Chen, chief mate aboard the hospital ship USNS Comfort, (right), gives U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Lee E. Payne, (center), assistant director for Combat Support, Defense Health Agency, and Tom McCaffery, assistant secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, a tour of the ship while off the coast of Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. Comfort is working with health and government partners in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean to provide care on the ship and at land-based medical sites, helping to relieve pressure on national medical systems, including those strained by an increase in cross-border migrants. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jordan R. Bair)

The U.S. military has long recognized the close link between health and security – and the operational and strategic importance of Global Health. In the early 1900s, U.S. Army surgeon Major Walter Reed discovered the causes of yellow fever, which claimed the lives of more U.S. soldiers than combat during the Spanish-American War. Since then, the Department’s role in global health builds upon the foundation of readiness, recognizing that U.S. forces could be deployed anywhere in the world, and on a moment’s notice – and that they must be prepared for any health threats they might face. In recent years, the strategic focus on the linkage of global health and security has been increasingly reflected in the National Security Strategy, the National Defense Strategy, the National Biodefense Strategy, and the Global Health Security Strategy.

Beyond protecting U.S. forces, the Department recognizes that by enhancing readiness, increasing interoperability, and strengthening partnerships, Global Health Engagement activities serve as key enablers of the National Defense Strategy.

Advancing readiness of the force

The Military Health System carries out its mission to prepare military medical teams to provide the best possible health care on the battlefield and ensure service members are medically ready to deploy. Global Health Engagement activities advance this readiness, providing critical training opportunities to enhance military medical capabilities.

The U.S. remains at the global forefront for infectious disease prevention. The Military Health System’s cutting-edge research and development program continues to develop vaccines and countermeasures for infectious disease to enhance global health security – from Zika to dengue fever. These capabilities are important not only to protect U.S. and partner forces, but to combat health threats that can destabilize societies and create conditions where conflict is likely to emerge.

Contributing to the overall effort, as part of the Defense Health Agency’s combat support capabilities, the Health Surveillance Explorer communicates disease outbreak surveillance through immediate reporting and monthly surveillance summaries, providing critical information to inform Force Health Protection priorities and monitor threats to global stability. The U.S. military’s research labs in South America, Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East serve on the front lines with partner nations to improve disease surveillance and outbreak response assistance.

The first goal of the U.S. Government Global Health Security Strategy calls for strengthening partner country global health security capacities. “Achieving global health security requires all nation-states to be capable of preventing, detecting, and responding promptly and effectively to health security risks and public health emergencies of international concern,” according to the strategy published earlier this year. “To help those in need while protecting Americans at home and abroad, the United States will help partners achieve international global health security standards.”

One example supporting this strategy occurred in March 2019 when U.S. Africa Command and the Ugandan Ministry of Defense co-hosted the African Malaria Task Force. Experts from 18 African partner nations, nongovernmental organizations, nonprofit organizations, and the U.S. gathered to share best practices and lessons learned in combating the primary disease that kills in Africa.

“The purpose [of AFMT] is to bring together scientists and policymakers in order to strengthen and expand effective, sustainable malaria control programs, provide support to African partner nations, and to assist national and regional malarial programs,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Edward Kosterman, public health officer, Office of the Command Surgeon, AFRICOM, in an AFRICOM news release. “We want to encourage our partners to take a whole-of-government approach to combat malaria, by sharing resources, strategies, and expertise while leveraging their ministries of defense as key assets in resource-constrained environments.”

AFMT has grown since its inception in 2011 to include 21 African partner nations, testament to the benefits of strengthening collaboration to combat a disease that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says in 2016 claimed 90 percent of reported deaths worldwide in Africa.

Building partnerships and interoperability

Global Health Engagement activities also build interoperability through subject matter expert exchanges with partners and allies and joint exercises to improve response to disasters or outbreaks, contributions to globally integrated health services, and partnerships to advance shared interests and maintain regional stability and security.

Earlier this year, the Department of Defense partnered with the United Arab Emirates to create a dedicated trauma, burn, and rehabilitative medicine capability in Abu Dhabi – an effort that will both sustain and enhance wartime surgical skills while building interoperability with U.S. partners across the region.

Military health education and training exchanges, including sharing advances in military trauma care and patient movement, promote mutual awareness, familiarity, and confidence in military medicine and enhancing Partner Nation military medical capabilities.

As part of the Comfort’s deployment this year, the ship’s medical staff collaborated with Colombian military and civilian medical experts to exchange treatment techniques and best practices.

“It’s an event of supreme importance because the U.S. military is teaching us many ways to prevent epidemic illnesses that all under-developed countries, like Colombia, have to confront,” said Lt. Col. Janeth Rosero Reyes, Colombian army director of general medicine at Battalion Cordoba. “My entire team learned a lot of techniques and we will begin to share them with the goal to generate an impact in our foundation.”

Enhancing Security Cooperation

Global Health Engagement enhances security cooperation, fostering critical relationships and cooperation so that when health or other security threats arise, the U.S. is ready and able to partner to advance shared interests.

The Defense HIV/AIDS Prevention Program, for example, partners with 55 other countries’ militaries to curb the global HIV/AIDS epidemic. Over the past nearly two decades of work, DHAPP has provided direct military-to-military cooperation and support to partner nations through activities like training health care workers to provide clinical services, equipping laboratories and clinics for testing and diagnostics, promoting health education, linking individuals with treatment, and more. This long-standing singular focus on a disease continues to leverage critical partnerships while addressing a global epidemic, reflecting the unique and powerful capabilities behind Global Health Engagement. 

“As the Military Health System works to deliver on the National Defense Strategy’s priorities to advance readiness and strategic partnerships and alliances, Global Health Engagement remains a strategic tool for combatant commands,” said assistant secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Tom McCaffery, “and the Military Health System remains committed to leveraging the vast repository of Global Health Engagement assets to support operational readiness, recognizing the U.S. military is better prepared, better protected and stronger through partnership as a result.”

You also may be interested in...

Defending the Homeland: Air Force International Health Specialists bring experience to pandemic response

Article
6/12/2020
Two men in masks...one in military uniform, the other casually dressed

Stepping out of your comfort zone and being part of the larger DOD mission is crucial to grow as a military medic.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Global Health Engagement | Global Health Engagement

Foreign liaison officers bring new perspective to MHS

Article
5/26/2020
Image of three men talking to each other

Medical information exchange aids in better care everywhere

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement | Coronavirus | Global Health Engagement

Defending the Homeland: BAMC infectious disease doc aids Guam's COVID response

Article
5/14/2020
Image of soldier standing, surrounded by tropical water

The Navy has since undertaken an aggressive mitigation plan of isolating, quarantining, and treating affected Sailors to keep the ship prepared to execute its mission.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Global Health Engagement | Global Health Engagement

Mobility Airmen conduct historic first aeromedical evacuation mission using Transport Isolation System

Article
5/4/2020
Image of three people exiting an aircraft

The TIS is an infectious disease containment unit designed to minimize risk to aircrew, medical attendants, and the airframe.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Global Health Engagement | Global Health Engagement

A look into the future: Embedded Health Engagement Teams

Article
4/22/2020
Female soldier teaching a class

The exercise promotes bilateral cooperation by providing opportunities for U.S. and partner nation military engineers, medical personnel and support staff to work and train side by side.

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement | Global Health Engagement

Coronavirus: What you need to know

Article
3/6/2020
A Guardsmen with the 341st Military Intelligence Battalion conducts translation work on a safety message regarding the best practices for avoiding the novel coronavirus for the Washington Department of Health on Feb. 9, 2020 at the Information Operations Readiness Center, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. (Courtesy Photo)

Although news stories and images contain many reports of people wearing surgical masks to ward off the virus, that's not recommended

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement | Public Health | Coronavirus | Coronavirus

MHS prepared to support interagency coronavirus response

Article
2/6/2020
Airmen assist one another in donning their personal protective equipment, while on-board an Air Force C-17 Globemaster III during transportation isolation system training at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina. Engineered and implemented after the Ebola virus outbreak in 2014, the TIS is an enclosure the Department of Defense can use to safely transport patients with diseases like novel coronavirus. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cody R. Miller)

From R&D to force health protection, MHS protects DoD personnel and families

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement | Public Health | Coronavirus | Coronavirus

DoD releases guidance to protect forces from novel coronavirus

Article
1/31/2020
The novel coronavirus is a variant of other coronaviruses, such as this colorized transmission electron micrograph of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) virus particles (blue) found near the periphery of an infected VERO E6 cell (yellow). Image captured and color-enhanced at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility in Fort Detrick, Maryland. (Photo by NIAID)

Basic infection controls offer best defense against illness

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement | Public Health | Coronavirus | Coronavirus

Coronavirus: What providers, patients should know

Article
1/24/2020
Many forms of coronavirus exist among both humans and animals, but this new strain’s has caused alarm. (CDC graphic)

What to do now that virus has appeared in U.S.

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement | Public Health | Coronavirus | Global Health Engagement | Coronavirus

DTRA contributes to historic Ebola vaccine effort

Article
1/17/2020
Air Force Staff Sgt. Lee Nembhard, an aeromedical evacuation technician assigned to the 375th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron from Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, straps a simulated Ebola patient to a litter during a Transport Isolation System training exercise at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Megan Munoz)

U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves new Ebola vaccine

Recommended Content:

Immunization Healthcare | Immunizations | Global Emerging Infections Surveillance | Global Health Engagement | Global Health Engagement

Air Force International Health Specialist builds medical capability in Iraq

Article
12/30/2019
U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jessica Cowden, Infectious Disease Programs chief with the Defense Institute for Medical Operations, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, poses for a photo with the NATO Mission Iraq Embedded Training Team during the Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve, June 25, 2019. (Photo By Josh Mahler)

Cowden’s work facilitated the exchange of medical knowledge and practices between Kurdish and Iraqi security forces.

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement | Global Health Engagement

Ship-based Global Health Engagement

Article
12/4/2019
Navy Capt. Heather King, executive director of the TriService Nursing Research Program at the Uniformed Services University, details the process of ship-based global health engagement missions during the October 22, 2019, Medical Museum Science Café titled "Ship-Based Global Health Engagement Missions: Expanding Global Partnerships" at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Silver Spring, Maryland. (NMHM photo)

Global health engagement is an important priority for military medicine

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement | National Museum of Health and Medicine | Global Health Engagement

Network of researchers advancing warfighter readiness

Article
12/4/2019
Air Force Maj. Gen. Lee Payne, the assistant director for Combat Support at DHA, delivered the keynote address at the Global Emerging Infections Surveillance Scientific and Programmatic Advancement Meeting, GSPAM. He emphasized the importance of Force Health Protection measures and linked the GEIS mission to DHA’s combat support mission. (DoD photo)

In fiscal year 2020, GEIS awarded approximately $60 million to more than 20 DoD laboratories and U.S. government partners

Recommended Content:

Combat Support | Global Health Engagement | Global Emerging Infections Surveillance

World AIDS Day puts spotlight on landmark DoD study

Article
12/2/2019
Dr. John Mascola, director of the National Institutes of Health Vaccine Research Center, discusses HIV vaccine progress at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Nov. 26, during a World AIDS Day commemoration.  (U.S. Army photo)

Vaccine study shows infection risk lowered by 31 percent, offering hope for future

Recommended Content:

Immunization Healthcare | Research and Innovation | Global Health Engagement

USNS Comfort strengthens partnership with Jamaica

Article
11/7/2019
Navy Cmdr. Sara Naczas, a nurse assigned to the hospital ship USNS Comfort, helps a boy roll his yo-yo at a temporary medical treatment site in Kingston, Jamaica. Comfort is working with health and government partners in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean to provide care on the ship and at a temporary medical treatment site, helping to relieve pressure on national medical systems, including those strained by an increase in cross-border migrants. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Maria G. Llanos)

This marks the Comfort’s third visit to Jamaica

Recommended Content:

Global Health Engagement | Global Health Engagement
<< < 1 2 3 4 5 > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 5

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.