What You Didn't Know about Public Health and Why
US Navy | 2022-04-05
CUBA - These days, when people think about Public Health, COVID-19 is at the fore. Over the last couple of years, Public Health professionals everywhere have been focused on mitigating the spread of COVID-19 infection, but not to the exclusion of all the other things Public Health is responsible for.
“A lot of people don’t know that much about what Public Health is and what we do,” said Lt. j.g. Haley Barravecchia, Department Head, (DH) Preventive Medicine (PM), US Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command Guantanamo Bay (US NRMTC GB). “Really, if you think about it, that’s not a bad thing, because it means we’re doing our jobs. Barravecchia added. "If we weren’t, people would see a lot more disease, foodborne illness, STI’s and all the other things that happen when Public Health isn’t at work.”
The Public Health Department at Guantanamo Bay consists of Industrial Hygiene (IH), Preventive Medicine (PM), Safety, Health Promotions, and Occupational Health. “We all work in concert, each with our own role,” explained Lt. Richard Okpani, DH, Industrial Hygiene. “Industrial Hygiene inspects and investigates things that threaten safety in both home and work environments, we determine the danger and what needs to be monitored by Occupational Health and Safety." Okpani said. "We're checking for hazard exposure and over-exposure to chemicals and other conditions that affect worker safety." While IH measures and monitors workplace conditions like air quality, noise, and general health and safety conditions in the workplace, Occupational Health measures and monitors the impact if an environment on workers.
Hearing Conservation is one of the central programs of the Occupational Health department with the main goal of preventing noise induced hearing loss from occurring and according to Occupational Health specialists, the best way to do this is through audiometric monitoring of noise exposed personnel. At Guantanamo Bay, the program is supported through a training partnership with Naval Hospital, Jacksonville and Lt. Kyle Rodgers, Au. D who visits quarterly to provide audiologist training and patient care. US NMRTC GB now has three recently certified Hearing Conservation Technicians to meet Guantanamo Bay’s hearing conservation needs.
For its part, Preventive Medicine performs, as its name suggests, to ferret out conditions in the environment, before they become problems. PM routinely conducts 34 different base-wide inspections, to include bacteria testing at recreational beaches and testing pool water for bacteria and chemical balance. PM also inspects installation restaurants, the Navy Exchange (NEX) Barber Shop and Beauty Salon and maintains and conducts weekly surveillance and collection at 28 different mosquito and insect vector stations, "Public Health works collaboratively with installation partners, like the Veterinarian, Naval Facilities and the Installation leadership," Barravecchia explained. "We work closely together because if the Vet sees something - a parasite or a disease in pets - we need to know because it means it's in the community.”
Community involvement is also an essential component to public health Lt. Cmdr. Carl Powell, Director of Public Health explained. “During our most recent outbreak of Omicron, we relied on everyone in the community to help us mitigate spread. I think of our community partners and leadership throughout the installation including the Navy Exchange, Morale Welfare & Recreation, Navy Gateway Inn & Suites, W. T. Sampson School, the Public Works Department the Child Development Center, and the literally thousands of individuals who we spoke with while performing contact tracing."
Powell continued, "Without the help and cooperation of the community we would not have been able to succeed at curtailing spread like we were able to.” Lt. Cmdr. Powell said. “Community spread of Omicron has been contained and stopped due to the support and cooperation of our great community.”
If you have a concern about a condition that may pose a health threat in your workplace or your quarters, Public Health is a valuable community resource. Lt..j.g. Barravecchia. "We encourage people to call us, if there's a problem we want to know about it. We're here to help."
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