Air Force, CDC Agree to Conduct Joint Programs

Released: Apr 21, 1997

by Master Sgt. Anita Bailey
Office of the Surgeon General Public Affairs

BOLLING AIR FORCE BASE, D.C. (AFNS) -- The Air Force and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta signed a Memorandum of Understanding April 17, formalizing an agreement to work together in research, training and exchange of knowledge of healthcare systems.

The CDC, whose mission is to promote health and quality of life by preventing and controlling disease, injury and disability, and premature death, is an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services. While the Department of Defense and the CDC have conducted joint programs on specific epidemiological efforts before, this is the first formal agreement on such a broad-ranging basis. The MOU is effective immediately.

According to Maj. (Dr.) Donald Noah, infectious disease analyst at the Armed Forces Medical Intelligence Center at Fort Detrick, Md., and the Air Force medical service liaison to the CDC, this MOU will help prevent duplication of effort and improve shared knowledge of the healthcare capabilities and provides for the mutual exchange of personnel.

"This will help both agencies do business more efficiently and effectively" Noah said. "The Air Force brings its expertise in the timely delivery of effective healthcare. The CDC brings its expertise in the long-term health trend analysis and evidence-based prevention effectiveness. The marriage of these two will enhance both agencies. We will scientifically attack adverse health trends and be able to manage those events more aggressively."

Noah was the first Air Force public health officer to go through the CDC disease outbreak training program, from 1994 to 1996. Air Force officials believe this collaboration will help provide the DOD with the state of the art defenses to meet the disease threats around the globe that threaten national security.

"What we are doing is trying to optimize a global infectious disease surveillance and response capability to meet the challenges of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases threatening national security," said Col. (Dr.) Thomas Cropper, chief, Public Health, Air Force Medical Operations Agency.

Cropper explained that with the expanding worldwide operational missions challenging the Air Force under its vision 'Global Engagement - A Vision for the 21st Century', "there is an increased risk to the men and women of the Air Force by pathogens in either naturally occurring epidemics or intentionally used against us as in biological warfare. This capability will help us address those threats," Cropper said.

Current initiatives include having Public Health officers participate in a two-year outbreak investigation program with the Epidemic Intelligence Services at the CDC. Graduates are then assigned to the Armed Forces Medical Intelligence Agency as an infectious disease analyst.

Future exchange assignments may include the placement of CDC staff at Brooks Air Force Base, Texas, to partner in implementing a broad range of Air Force programs in prevention, surveillance, infectious and environmental/occupational health. In exchange, the Air Force is working to place an Air Force medical officer in the Epidemiology Program Office to work with Humanitarian/Disaster response, epidemiologic/economic analysis of health care and distance learning objectives.