The First NATO Health Surveillance Conference
The first NATO Conference on Health Surveillance in Modern Military Medicine: Technologies, Methods and Perspectives took place from 26 to 28 June 2012 in Munich at the Bundeswehr Medical Academy.
The 3-day meeting was organized by the NATO Centre of Excellence for Military Medicine (MILMED COE), the Centre d’Epidémiologie et de Santé Publique des Armées (CESPA), the German Society for Military Medicine and Pharmacy (GSMMP/DGWMP) and The United States Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center (AFHSC).
Since timely monitoring of health threats to soldiers in mission is of crucial importance for their ability to fight as well as for their wellbeing in theatre and quality of life back home, military deployment health surveillance, more precisely real or near-real-time surveillance, has gained significant importance throughout the last years. These surveillance techniques enable military commanders to react on infectious diseases outbreaks and to have them managed accordingly. At the same time, modern surveillance techniques do not only identify threats caused by artificially released infectious agents but also support the management of naturally occurring events like the SARS or H1N1 flu outbreak in the past. However, deployment health surveillance is not exclusively restricted to infectious diseases but is also related to the large field of battlefield healthcare and all efforts to improve the treatment quality for physically or psychologically wounded soldiers.
On the NATO level the need for military deployment health surveillance expertise has led to the implementation of a Deployment Health Surveillance Capability (DHSC) in Munich, which is one of the 4 medical branches of the NATO Centre of Excellence for Military Medicine (MILMED COE).
About 200 military medical -, as well as civilian public health subject matter experts attended the conference from 22 NATO and NATO partner nations. The focus was on health threats to deployed military forces, technologies for health surveillance, existing medical and public health systems in the deployed environment, building responsive analytical capabilities, utilizing surveillance data in the decision making process and challenges to sharing health and operational information across nations.
The purpose of the meeting on the long run is to promote coordinated and standardized collection, analysis, reporting, utilization and management of health-related deployment data during multinational military operations. Furthermore, it also aims to provide a platform for international military and civilian experts to exchange their lessons and experiences and to encourage them to strengthen their network.
A further objective was to discuss existing technologies – namely the French ASTER (Alerte et surveillance en temps réel) system already in use and the new EPI-NATO system – and to identify deficiencies and solutions for conducting health surveillance in deployed forces.
Following the kick-off keynote speech presented by Brigadier General Rob van der Meer, COMEDS Chairman and Surgeon General of the Netherlands Armed Forces, the programme continued with presentations on NATO health surveillance experience in Afghanistan and introduction of the already mentioned new EPI-NATO and ASTER systems. More specific practical experiences drawn from the management of a human case of rabies in Afghanistan or an ebola outbreak in Congo were also on the agenda.
The civilian side was represented by a speaker from WHO Europe who introduced the International Health Regulations (IHR), as well as by a professor from the University of Pécs Medical School, Hungary, with a special emphasis on the impact of global migration on health surveillance systems.
Industry was represented by a number of exhibitors, mainly specializing in military medicine and public health.
Based on the impact assessment by the organizers and the evaluation of the feedback forms provided by the participants, the possibility of organizing such a conference on a regular (2-year) basis will be considered.
We would like to thank again all the participants and organizers for their kind support and we hope to see you all in the future! The conference presentations will be made available via our website during the next days.
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