Wednesday, February 13, 2013

DOD in the Pacific Region

In the coming years, the U.S. is going to develop medical partnerships and play a larger role in the geographically dispersed Asia-Pacific region. DOD will need to strengthen its military presence by training allies and provide humanitarian assistance where needed.

From the military medical perspective, this means a need to provide care and medical services to service members and beneficiaries in the region. At the same time, DOD will need to sustain military medical humanitarian assistance capabilities and also integrate and advance technology across the region.

“We need to reorganize and integrate across the services to deliver excellent care wherever and however it may be needed”, said Dr. Jonathan Woodson, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs.

Several months ago, Woodson visited the Pacific region to meet with senior line and medical leaders. The trip included stops in Hawaii, Guam, South Korea, Singapore, and Japan. Discussions took place on how to meet the challenge of providing care in spite of the sweeping geographic distances between military medical facilities in the region.

According to Woodson, “We have to help alleviate the geographic challenge by using telehealth technology to advance and set a standard for care in the region. Telemedicine is allowing healthcare providers to deliver clinical care and provide emergency assistance plus additional medical services to remote locations that might otherwise not have access to specialized and full spectrum care.”

Woodson continued to say, “The medical profession in each of these countries in the Pacific can be slightly different so it is important to partner with host nations. All in all, it is going well, but we need to look at the pressures of what’s happening with private medical systems in these areas and make sure that we have plans in place so that there are no vulnerabilities in the care provided to beneficiaries.”

Another priority in the region is to provide humanitarian aid. DOD conducts a number of regular humanitarian missions, such as the Pacific Partnership which is the largest annual humanitarian and civic assistance mission in the region.

During the 2012 Pacific Partnership mission, personnel aboard the hospital ship USNS Mercy provided medical and dental care to more than 49,000 people and assisted in refurbishing health clinics and delivering medical supplies. The annual mission which is rotated yearly between the Mercy and the USNS Comfort partners with nations in the region and works with a variety of non-governmental organizations.