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Doctor Outlines Global Health’s Tie to Security Operations

By Erika Christ and Lisa Daniel
Military Health System

WASHINGTON, Jan. 25, 2013 – Defense Department efforts to improve global public health are an important and growing part of military stability operations around the world, the director of the department’s Center for Disaster and Humanitarian Assistance Medicine said.

Dr. Charles Beadling reflected on the center’s mission and operations during a recent interview with health.mil.

“We do feel that there is a strong link between global health engagement and security,” he said. Such engagement adds to security by improving the ability of governments to meet the needs of their populations, thereby reducing the tendency for insurgency or terrorism, he explained.

“Since 9/11, we know that we cannot ignore the global situation and rely on security only within our borders,” Beadling added.

Until recently, the director noted, U.S. national security operated from two mostly independent pillars: diplomacy and force projection. Today, he said, national security is based on the “three D’s” of diplomacy, defense and development.

For its part, the center, which is part of Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md., operates under the premise that health is “a global common good,” Beadling said.

“Along with safety, education and other public benefits, people expect their government to help provide health care,” he said. “By assisting legitimate governments to build capability and capacity in health, the United States can create political stability that leads to our security.”

Beadling’s Center for Disaster and Humanitarian Assistance Medicine has been doing just that with its “global health engagements.” Through its partnership with U.S. Africa Command, the center has focused engagements in about a dozen countries in eastern and western Africa, holding workshops and exercises to explore how those nations would respond to a global pandemic, he said.

“The general intent is to assist each partner nation to build capacity and capabilities to protect their population from natural or manmade disasters, reducing human suffering and death,” Beadling said.

As part of that work, the center created the Emergency Management and Preparedness Program and was invited by the government of Mozambique to make it the first country to partner in the program, the director said. Beadling was among those who traveled to Mozambique in December as a first step. Center and Africom personnel are scheduled to travel there again in April to finalize plans, which are to be tested in an exercise next year.

That partnership will follow standard protocol of the center and Africom to build trust in bilateral relations, Beadling said. “It is important that the U.S. representatives act as facilitators and let the host nation lead the process so that it is an appropriate plan for them,” he added.

The center developed a study to measure the effectiveness of its health engagements. The study is designed to develop a standardized process across the Military Health System and the services to evaluate the effectiveness of the engagements in meeting strategic security objectives, Beadling said.

Beadling noted the success of Operation Pacific Angel, in which the Air Force partnered with the Australian air force, Nepalese army and others in September to provide two weeks of treatment in Nepal and surrounding countries. And a successful conference in Ghana in August was part of the center’s pandemic response program with Africom, he said.

“We are still in the early stages of defining our roles in [the health engagements] and determining how to best use them to improve our national security,” Beadling said.

It is imperative, he added, for the center to work in close coordination with the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the United Nations and nongovernmental organizations to meets its goals.

 

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