Public health: A career focused on prevention

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Lindsay Herrell
  • 49th Aerospace Medicine Squadron, Public Health
National Public Health Week will begin on April 7, 2014 and will highlight a different topic each day. The week will cover lessons in infant and early childhood care to ensure healthy child development and establish the groundwork for a healthy life, disaster preparedness, preventive health practices including cancer and preventive blood screenings, healthy lifestyle practices such as exercising regularly, healthy eating and living tobacco-free, the importance of calorie intake as well as  fresh fruits and vegetables, the benefits of buying local food products, and information on how families can gain access to affordable healthcare.  


The 49th Aerospace Medicine Squadron Public Health flight at Holloman provides many preventive services available to you and your family to ensure their safety and well-being. Some of the work accomplished by public health is noticeable and familiar to the base population, to include the deployment health program, annual hearing tests for those in work centers with hazardous noise conditions, and the annual Preventive Health Assessment program. However, the primary mission of public health is to prevent illness and injury from occurring at Holloman, and often times, some of those tasks are unseen by the Team Holloman community.  

One of the efforts that is rarely seen by the community is public health's annual Food Vulnerability Inspection. This inspection is targeted to recognize vulnerabilities and implement process improvements to prevent biological and chemical terrorist attacks at the installation's food facilities. If you buy food on base, public health has ensured its wholesomeness by inspecting all base restaurants and the groceries you buy at the commissary and shoppette. Public health also uses the standards of the Food and Drug Administration food code, in conjunction with Air Force sanitation standards to ensure these facilities provide safe and wholesome food to your family.

Public health accomplishes occupational health surveillance at all work centers on base along with bioenvironmental engineering to ensure all work centers are Occupational Safety and Health Administration compliant and safe for the workers. This surveillance is followed up with medical evaluations and hearing tests to ensure the established preventive measures are working properly. Public health educates all expectant parents who work in hazardous environments to ensure that the workplace hazards do not cause harm to the developing fetus.

Public health prevents the spread of vector-borne diseases like West Nile virus through mosquito trapping and testing, as well as preventive medications and patient education. Public health works with civil engineering's entomology section to survey the landscape of Holloman, remove any potential mosquito breeding habitats, and spray areas of concern. In 2013, Holloman had an outbreak of mosquitoes infected with the West Nile virus, but due to the efforts of public health and civil engineering there was only one confirmed human case.

Even the public health programs that are well known are generally misunderstood. For example, many active duty members may wonder why they are forced to complete a PHA every year.  They may not understand that the purpose of the assessment is to identify any potential depression, physical or substance abuse problems, as well as potential medical issues in active duty members, ensuring they receive proper follow-up treatment. Likewise, the Deployment-Related Health Assessment program seems like a two-year long ritual that all deploying members need to accomplish, but its purpose is to ensure the members are healthy before they deploy and have a healthy reintegration once they return.

In an effort to showcase all of public health's behind-the-scenes work for Team Holloman, the public health office will be hosting various events around base for National Health Week. Beginning April 7, there will be a Healthy Living booth displayed at the Fitness Center. On April 8, public health will be at the Base Exchange with information on animal and vector-disease prevention. Public health will visit the School Age Program on April 9 to instruct on proper hand-washing, and on April 10 they will feature lessons in hearing protection at the Base Exchange.

For more information on how you can utilize the services that public health provides, contact the 49th Aerospace Medicine Squadron Public Health flight at 575-572-3306.