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News | April 20, 2020

A look into the future: Embedded Health Engagement Teams

By Zach Huebschman and Kelley Schlitt U.S. Air Force International Health Specialists

FALLS CHURCH, Va. -- International Health Specialists from 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) are piloting a new global health engagement model to improve health and readiness for U.S. military forces and partner nations.

Under the Embedded Health Engagement Team model, U.S. medical forces embed in partner nation medical facilities. These teams are made up of small groups of U.S. military medical personnel who work beside partner nation counterparts for extended periods of time. These teams have a low cost, small footprint, and high return on investment, especially for readiness of U.S. military medical staff.

Embedded Health Engagement Teams are different from traditional global health engagement models. Traditional models are often large, one-time events such as humanitarian assistance missions. Instead, Embedded Health Engagement Teams operate within the host nation medical system over a longer period of time, providing more mutual benefit.

“These engagements can contribute to the host nation’s health system plans and goals while also providing more realistic experience for U.S. military personnel to be trained and ready to operate within foreign environments,” said Col. Edwin Burkett, Defense Institute for Medical Operations director. International Health Specialists. “The goal is to use many small, synchronized health engagement teams embedded in targeted locations.”

Embedded Health Engagement Teams are multidisciplinary with a mix of medical specializations tailored to meet targeted strategic objectives of both nations. Team members also have geopolitical and cultural competency. This enables teams to better develop trust, foster knowledge exchange, and establish stronger interoperability with their partner nation counterparts.

“This new blueprint could enhance global health engagements as an agile and strategic tool that combatant commanders can leverage to achieve security cooperation goals,” said Burkett.

"We designed the project to obtain quantitative and qualitative measurable data that we could validate and then refine the embedded team concept,” Burkett explained. "We want to document the utility of Embedded Health Engagement Teams to prove their value for full implementation as a premier operational capability.”

Lt. Col. Brian Neese, a student at The Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource at the National Defense University, who worked alongside Burkett in piloting the Embedded Heath Engagement Team concept, sees immense potential with this program.

"We want to see this training platform applied by International Health Specialist teams around the world, enabling training and security cooperation gains that make demonstrable, sustainable impacts in our partner nations.” Neese said.