Background Global health engagement (GHE) is an important priority for the Military Health Service as such activities strengthen the health capabilities of partner nations and improve interoperability. By their very nature, GHE activities are predominantly conducted in low-resource areas with limited infrastructure and substantial humanitarian need. The Department of Defense is evaluating leaner, flexible force packages to accomplish GHE missions and better prepare uniformed medical providers to provide care in austere environments. Methods Observations made during the execution of Continuing Promise 2017, a recurring civil-military humanitarian operation conducted in Central and South America, are offered herein. Descriptions of relevant force health protection (FHP) threats experienced by mission personnel and mitigation measures successfully employed to prevent illness are provided. Relevant Department of Defense instructions are reviewed and risk mitigation strategies are compared with published standards and expert recommendations. Findings In addition to well-described sanitation, hygiene, and infectious disease challenges that traditionally accompany military field activities, providing health care services to host nation populations in low-resource settings generates unique FHP vulnerabilities. Public health expertise leveraged throughout the planning and execution of GHE activities is instrumental for successfully identifying and mitigating the numerous FHP risks present. Discussion Experiences from Continuing Promise 2017 demonstrate the expeditionary public health practitioner's role as a force multiplier has never been more relevant. A variety of public health countermeasures are available to successfully mitigate FHP threats experienced during GHE events. The public health lessons learned from Continuing Promise 2017 assist mission planners, commanders, and health care providers ensure that GHE participants remain healthy enough to accomplish the mission and meet America's commitments to partner nations.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health