PENSACOLA, Fla. (NNS) -- Preventing a medical condition before it has a chance to affect others is the goal of Naval Hospital Pensacola's Preventive Medicine Department.
"We work very hard to prevent any kind of disease or outbreak," said Hospital Corpsman Second Class Jonathan Harris, preventive medicine technician, NHP. "[Preventive Medicine] is important whether it's keeping our operating forces healthy on the battlefield or protecting their families from the spread of disease at home."
The Preventive Medicine Department at NHP is responsible for ensuring the health and well-being for everyone that works or lives on the military installations in Pensacola. The department also provides guidance to NHP's 10 branch clinics and their respective military installations across five states. Whether performing inspections of food service facilities, berthing spaces, child care facilities, recreational facilities, swimming pools or surveying potable water systems, solid waste and waste water disposal sites, the Preventive Medicine Department is always working to make the area safe for service members, their families and the community. The department also closely monitors health concerns that could impact military installations or local communities.
"We monitor communal disease rates on or near military installations for diseases such influenza or sexually transmitted diseases and use that information to inform commands and the local community," said Cmdr. David Veenhuis, associate director for public health. "We work very closely with local health departments to ensure everyone in our community is safe."
The nature of their job also makes preventive medicine technicians highly deployable. When deployed, the technicians monitor food and water supplies to ensure service members do not contract an illness that may affect mission readiness. They also research disease rates in foreign countries, which can be very different than disease rates here in the United States.
"One outbreak can stop the mission," said Veenhuis, who experienced this first hand when deployed to Iraq with an aviation squadron. "If a squadron is sick, then a squadron can't fly."
The same applies to any military command, even educational commands that are prevalent on Naval Air Station Pensacola and Corry Station. Every year, thousands of students live in close proximity to each other, eat in the same dining facilities and train in the same swimming pools. The spread of a disease like food poising could impact training.
"We try and stop the spread of disease before it can impact service members or their families," said Harris. "That is why I love preventive medicine. We are at the forefront of ensuring our troops are healthy."
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