The historical connection between military medical services and general public health continues today. All relevant sectors of Member State governments must contribute to meeting countries’ obligations under and developing their core capacities to implement the International Health Regulations (IHR). Thus, the military – with unique populations, exposures and detection capabilities – is poised to continue its role as important contributor to global public health through disease control and prevention. WHO continues to work with the International Committee of Military Medicine (ICMM) – a relationship begun in 1952 – to improve military health services’ capacity to support national compliance with the IHR, and to develop and provide training on them for these services’ personnel.
Military health services have unique capabilities that can and should contribute to global public health under the framework of the IHR.
Military mobilization has historically been associated with disease transmission; and military medical services have historically investigated the causes and transmission of disease (such as malaria and yellow fever), and developed and implemented effective interventions such as social distancing (cohorting, isolation and quarantine), chemotherapeutics (anti-malarials), and vaccines (meningococcal). All of these have tremendously benefited civilian populations and global public health.
Military populations are unique and may have unique exposure; surveillance systems in these populations can contribute to early identification of disease outbreaks that may be important to general public health. Outbreaks in the civilian population in which the military trains and operates may affect military populations and their operational capability.
Finally, military medical services may have special laboratory diagnostic capability that complements civilian capabilities. Thus, military medical laboratory services may be able to help detect a new outbreak or pathogen in either civilian or military populations.