ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — April 3-9 is National Public Health Week, and its focus is “making America the heathiest nation in one generation.” Sponsored by the American Public Health Association, NPHW is a movement to celebrate the power of prevention, advocating for healthy and fair policies, sharing strategies for successful partnerships and championing the role of a strong public health system.
This year, the Army Public Health Center celebrates 75 years of helping to contribute to a healthy nation—through its emphasis on promoting healthy people, healthy animals, healthy workplaces and healthy communities.
Public health, that is the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life, and promoting physical health through organized, population-based efforts, has been a part of the United States Army since its founding in 1776.
Throughout the history of warfare, armies have depended on clean water, wholesome food, sanitation, disease and injury prevention, hazard-free environments and other sound public health practices to keep Soldiers— and military working animals—in fighting form. The APHC has broadened the scope of the public health mission to meet today’s Army’s needs—to enhance Army readiness by identifying and assessing current and emerging health threats; developing and communicating public health solutions; and assuring the quality and effectiveness of the Army’s Public Health Enterprise.
Roots of Army Public Health
The lineage of the APHC can be traced back to 1942 with the founding of the Army Industrial Hygiene Laboratory, which was established at the beginning of World War II under the direct jurisdiction of the Army surgeon general. AIHL originally was located at the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health; it had a staff of three and an annual budget of $3,000. Its mission was to conduct occupational health surveys and investigations within the DOD industrial production base, a mission that proved beneficial to the nation’s war effort. After it’s relocation to Aberdeen Proving Ground in 1945, the Army Industrial Hygiene Laboratory has transformed to support the Army’s ever changing needs to its current state as the Army Public Health Center.
The APHC reached provisional status on August 17, 2015. Its predecessor organization, the U.S. Army Public Health Command, was created on Oct. 1, 2011, from the merger of the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine and the U.S. Army Veterinary Command.
The formal uniting of prevention, health promotion and veterinary missions allowed for full coordination, synchronization and integration of the military public health services around the globe.
The U.S. Army Veterinary Command was activated Oct. 2, 1994, as a major subordinate command of U.S. Army Medical Command. The Army is the DOD executive agent for veterinary services, and VETCOM executed this mission by supporting Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps installations and units throughout the world.
At the time of the merger with USACHPPM, VETCOM’s approximately 2,000 personnel included veterinarians, warrant officers, enlisted Soldiers, and appropriated and non-appropriated fund civilians who provide a variety of services, including the following:
- Food protection and quality assurance,
- Medical and surgical care to government-owned animals such as working dogs and ceremonial horses for the DOD and other federal agencies,
- Surveillance and control of zoonotic and transmissible animal diseases, and care of pets owned by active-duty and retired service members, and
- Trained and ready Active and Reserve component personnel
Today and the future
“We are celebrating our 75th Anniversary of a continuous line of organizations that provide safe and healthy environments for our Soldiers, Civilians, Retirees, Government-Owned Animals and Army Communities worldwide,” said John Resta, director of the Army Public Health Center and Acting Deputy Chief of staff for Public Health for the U.S. Army Medical Command.
Headquartered at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., the APHC is a field operating agency assigned to U.S. Army Medical Command, but it is unique among MEDCOM organizations in these ways:
- Its “patients” are populations, that is groups of people—military units, their families or Army civilian employees, for example—rather than individuals.
- It emphasizes prevention of disease, injury and disability, rather than healing those who have already experienced these conditions.
- It is proactive, optimizing health by educating members of the Army population about healthy behaviors, empowering them to build and sustain their own good health.
The APHC’s public health responsibilities are far-reaching. They extend beyond humans to include animals and the environment, where some of the causes of disease, injury and disability in people originate. Avian flu, unsafe drinking water, food that has spoiled or has not been safely processed or prepared, ineffective sanitation measures in the aftermath of natural disaster, exposure to industrial chemicals, mold in the workplace—these are just a few examples of the health threats stemming from animals or the environment that Army public health professionals address.
“While our public health mission has evolved over the course of 75 years, the constant consummate professionalism of our workforce has never changed,” said Resta.
APHC personnel have expertise in a variety of fields. Their professions include almost 70 scientific and technical disciplines, which are brought to bear on public health issues and problems in matrixed teams.
The APHC continues to fulfill its mission of enhancing Army readiness and focusing on promoting healthy people, communities, animals and workplaces.
The APHC’s formal 75th Anniversary Celebration will be held at Aberdeen Proving Ground on Sept. 21. The public is invited to attend.
For more information, visit: http://phc.amedd.army.mil