The Importance of the Department of Defense’s Role in Global Health Research and Development: A Briefing Re-Cap

Panelist from left to right: Karen Remley, MD, commissioner of the Virginia Department of Health; Stephen Morrison, PhD, director of the Global Health Policy Center at CSIS; Colonel Kent Kester, MD, former commander of Walter Reed Army Institute of Research; and Peter Hotez, MD, PhD, president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute.

Panelists from left to right: Karen Remley, MD, commissioner of the Virginia Department of Health; Stephen Morrison, PhD, director of the Global Health Policy Center at CSIS; Karen Goraleski, executive director, American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene; Colonel Kent Kester, MD, former commander of Walter Reed Army Institute of Research; and Peter Hotez, MD, PhD, president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute.

Research! America hosted a briefing, “The Department of Defense’s Essential Contributions to Global Health,” in Washington, DC. An expert panel shared the history of the DoD’s involvement in global health research and development. This briefing was co-hosted by the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, Center for Strategic & International Studies and the Sabin Vaccine Institute.

DOD Under-Resourced and Under-Acknowledged in Global Health R&D

Karen Goraleski, executive director of ASTMH, moderated the conversation and introduced the panelists, all of whom move in the global health R&D space every day, she said.

Stephen Morrison, PhD, director of the Global Health Policy Center at CSIS — and an author of the June 2011 report, The DoD’s Enduring Contributions to Health — spoke of the profound impact that the DoD’s six overseas medical labs have had on communities and regions in which they operate. He highlighted the agility of the labs in reacting and responding to emerging health threats at a moment’s notice and the complexity of the partnerships that make these labs a public health success.

Karen Remley, MD, commissioner of the Virginia Department of Health, understands how progress in global health means a greater ability to protect the health of Virginians. With study abroad becoming an increasingly common part of the college experience, and Virginia having among the highest concentration of active-duty military in the nation, infectious diseases once confined to other parts of the world are now just a plane ride away.

As a result, “Health is no longer global or domestic. It’s all local, everyday,” Remley said.

The DOD’s R&D Efforts a Best Buy in Global Health

Colonel Kent Kester, MD, former commander of Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, recognizes that health threats are ever-present.

“Health threats don’t discriminate and diseases don’t wait,” he said. Because of this, he noted the DoD’s expansion on its research efforts as part of its health force protection mandate.

Peter Hotez, MD, PhD, president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, shared a lengthy list of the DoD’s successful health interventions. In just one example, the DoD has been involved in the research surrounding many vaccines, including those for dengue fever, HIV/AIDS and malaria—all currently under development.

While the proportion of funds directed toward these efforts at the DoD is comparatively modest at less than 0.0001% of the total defense budget, the global impact has been invaluable. The panelists strongly agreed that the DoD’s global health research and development efforts are a best buy in global health and deserve more attention for their public health contributions.

The ASTMH is a Research!America member.

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