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Public Health DHA's Latest Shared Service Comes Aboard

Image of DHA Seal. Official seal of the Defense Health Agency.

The Defense Health Agency’s latest shared service, the Public Health division, reached initial operating capability on Sept. 30, 2014.

“Now that the Division has stood up, we have a few challenges in front of us, including continuing to build trust with our stakeholders, proving our worth, analyzing the additional product lines, and realizing the efficiencies and cost savings we have identified,“ said Air Force Col. Carol A. Fisher, chief of DHA’s Public Health Division.

“But the vision was clear from the start… the Army, Air Force and Navy combined with the Defense Health Agency would build a world-class public health capacity strategically positioned to meet the Military Health System and customer needs,” said Dr. Craig Postlewaite, deputy director for DHA’s Public Health division.

Construction of the Public Health division began in July 2011 with representatives from all three services forming the public health shared service work group. The work group formulated the course ahead to identify opportunities for improvement and capture efficiencies above the regional level (service public health centers).

“It’s been a labor of love, but a true team effort amongst the services to shape public health for the future,” said Fisher. “We are especially appreciative of the members of the public health shared services work group who worked tirelessly to make the division a reality.”

 The new division faced hurdles with leadership transition and the transfer of service positions and funds. However, the largest obstacle to overcome was assuming three former Army executive agencies, Department of Defense Veterinary Services, the Military Vaccine Healthcare Network and the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center, as public health product lines.

The mission set before them in the coming year:

  • Support the move from a health care system to a system of health by focusing on the prevention of disease, disability, and death in garrison and while deployed;
  • Create timely, standardized execution guidance, in collaboration with the military services;
  • Increase effectiveness and efficiencies (e.g., manpower and cost savings) through consolidation/re-engineering of functions; and
  • Develop a comprehensive portfolio management and DHA Public Health structure to best integrate the evolution of additional product lines.

After reaching initial operating capability, the division began to design, monitor and analyze metrics for all public health product lines, and conduct value stream analyses for additional product lines. Current product lines include: occupational and environmental health, clinical preventive services, health promotion, radiation health, food and water safety/sanitation, public health labs, public health emergency risk communications, and entomology. The division will also identify gaps in policy and implementation guidance.

As the Public Health division moves forward, the leaders expect to expand its role. With the analysis of each additional product line, the division’s scope and responsibilities increase, as will opportunities for capturing efficiencies and cost savings, Fisher explained.

Both Fisher and Postlewaite agree that standing up the public health division was an enormous challenge, but definitely an achievable one. They are pleased with the progress thus far, but agree there’s still much more work to be done.

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Last Updated: September 19, 2023
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