By Uniform Services University of Health Sciences (Joint Military Medical University)
A team from Commander Naval Forces Africa (NAVAF) Force Medical, Uniformed Services University (USU), and Navy Environmental and Preventive Medicine Unit TWO (NEPMU-2) was in Kigali, Rwanda this fall, working with the Rwandan Defense Force (RDF), to deliver the International Military Medical Humanitarian Assistance Course (IMMHAC), tailored to the African context from the USU-developed Military Medical Humanitarian Assistance Course (MMHAC).
“When the Department of Pediatrics first developed MMHAC in the late 90s, our goal was to improve the capability of US military medical providers to respond to complex humanitarian emergencies and disasters,” said Col. Patrick Hickey, chair and associate professor of the USU Department of Pediatrics. “Adoption of this course has been incredibly successful over the years and it has been taught both at medical centers and for deploying units.”
IMMHAC is taught at seven military medical treatment facilities by a consortium of national faculty from Pediatrics and Preventive Medicine, in collaboration with USU's Center for Global Health Engagement (CGHE). IMMHAC was adapted from MMHAC with the explicit goal of providing training for military primary care providers in preparing for and executing appropriate medical care to civilian populations in the austere health emergency setting, consistent with international standards.
“This course is a great example of how Military Preventive Medicine and Pediatricians can collaborate and support operations around the globe,” stated Lt. Cmdr. Amy Rogers, associate professor USU Department of Preventive Medicine, and preventive medicine physician with NAVEUR Force Medical. “Preventive Medicine and public health is the corner stone to reducing illness and injury in humanitarian emergency, and is often overlooked so we focus on providing the basics of understanding disease patterns and prevention methods.“
The IMMHAC course in Kigali was executed under the framework of the U.S. Department of State-funded, U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM)-implemented African Peacekeeping Rapid Response Partnership (APRRP), which is intended to build sustainable capabilities and capacity in select African partner nations to enable rapid deployment in support of peacekeeping operations or other developing crises. USU’s CGHE and NAVAF Force Medical collaborate to supporting executing the medical component of APRRP in four countries: Uganda, Rwanda, Ghana, and Senegal. APRRP aims to build African partner countries’ capacity to rapidly deploy and sustain an UN-standard Level 1 and/or Level 2 Medical Treatment Facility capable of providing medical support and care utilizing organic assets. IMMHAC is one of several collaborative events held in each country, including medical logistics, clinical ultrasound, and field sanitation courses.
The RDF IMMHAC course participants focused on understanding the unique health environment, and recognizing and managing those conditions consistently associated with high mortality among the most vulnerable populations, primarily children, in these settings: diarrhea and dehydration, malnutrition, epidemic measles, malaria and respiratory infections. Course scenarios focused on the role that medical assets would likely play as responders to a humanitarian emergency with limited medical resources.
“It is incredibly rewarding to work together with partner military medical providers to improve capabilities for whatever event may occur in the years to come, and learn from each other,” said Rogers. “These partnerships and collaborative workshops are vital for improving care and reducing disease in humanitarian emergencies.”
Other members of the training team included Cmdr. Brianna Rupp, preventive medicine physician and department head of Medical Threat Assessments at NEPMU-2, Lt. Col. Matthew Eberly, program director, Pediatric Infectious Diseases Fellowship and associate professor, USU Department of Pediatrics, and Jane Greulich, senior program manager, CGHE.