Assistance Center Provides Expertise for Humanitarian Missions Worldwide
By Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 6, 2008 A special organization within the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md., works with the U.S. military’s combatant commanders to assess worldwide nations’ capabilities for surveillance of infections and how quickly they can respond to an outbreak.
Part of USUHS’s Department of Military and Emergency Medicine, the Center for Disaster and Humanitarian Assistance Medicine develops interagency relationships across the federal government and with nongovernmental organizations, Army Col. (Dr.) Charles Beadling, the center’s director, said in an interview on the “Dot Mil Docs” program on BlogTalkRadio.com.
“We provide reach-back expertise for the critical management of disasters and humanitarian assistance medicine around the world,” Beadling said.
This week, the center has a team supporting U.S. Pacific Command with a conference on avian influenza and pandemic influenza prevention for the island nations in the South Pacific.
“Our team works with the combatant commander’s medical staff to assist allied host nations with developing surveillance capabilities and response plans,” Beadling explained.
The center is uniquely postured by being part of an academic center with access to subject-matter experts in many relevant specialties, especially public health, Beadling said. The center was created in 1999, through direct congressional action.
“We also augment the education of military medical officers here at the School of Medicine to specialize expertise, consultation and teaching,” Beadling said. “This better prepares them for their future careers.”
Since its creation, the center has reached around the globe offering its unique services.
“We have a team in Australia that’s working with the island nations of the South Pacific to specifically look at their programs for education, prevention, surveillance and response,” Beadling said.
In other parts of the world, the center is working not only on prevention or surveillance, but also on issues such as land mine victims’ assistance efforts in the Central African country of Chad.
“Chad has a long history of warfare along its borders, and therefore has numerous unexploded remnants of war that are a hazard for the population, especially around water sources, lines of communication, [and] roads to market,” Beadling explained.
Through the sponsorship of U.S. European Command, and now with the new U.S. Africa Command, the center has been working with government officials in Chad for the past three years to help to educate their de-mining organization in everything from first response to medical care for the population that may have been injured by exploded ordnance.
The center uses the Information Management System for Mine Action, a computer system that can be used to compare mine risk and mine activity around the world. “We can look at Chad to see how they compare to Yemen, Cambodia or the Balkans,” Beadling said.
Through sponsorship by U.S. Central Command and Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan, the center also helps the Afghan government with consultation and expertise to assist in developing infrastructure for the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police.
“Our program is designed to improve the health care infrastructure that is directly providing health care to that Afghan national security forces and their families,” Beadling said.
In Latin America and the Caribbean Basin, the center pitches in through sponsorship by U.S. Southern Command. “[It’s] one of our longest-running programs,” Beadling noted. “We provide HIV/AIDS prevention assistance to the militaries of allied nations.”
(Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg works in the New Media directorate of the Defense Media Activity.)