TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --
Public Health Week was recognized April 3-7, and the PH Flight set up informational booths in various locations around the installation, such as the 72nd Medical Group, the Base Exchange and Commissary, the Child Development Centers and the Youth Centers.
Topics of discussion included everything from proper hygiene to pregnancy, to entomology and hearing conservation. In promoting prevention for non-battle injuries and illness, the week is intended to educate the public on precautionary measures as well as treatments. The PH Flight was dispersed throughout the installation informing the public on the various programs offered.
As 72nd AMDS public health technicians, Staff Sgt. Shelby Platt and Airman 1st Class Brianna Milhouse explained just how extensive their flight is.
Food and sanitation programs comprise a significant portion, as that entails inspections of every food and public facility on the installation. This includes, but is not limited to, the gyms, commissary, Base Exchange, shoppettes, youth and child development centers and golf course. The inspection itself seeks to identify not only expired products but also chemicals, solutions and bugs. If something has been recalled, the flight is responsible for making sure the entire product has been pulled from the shelves and returned to its vendor. Additionally, the techs ensure that employees are properly trained.
Another program offered is the community health program.
“When Zika happened, Public Health was really involved in making sure people on base were well-informed and educated on the disease,” Platt said. While individuals are not required to visit the flight for TDY or vacations, they are required to be cleared for deployments in order to receive briefings on any current threats in the area. The PH Flight tracks increases in codes, which allows them to detect and be aware when higher reports of diseases occur.
“It’s like being a detective in a medical capacity, and I love it,” the sergeant expressed.
The technicians perform active and passive surveillance in which they look for commonalities within illnesses. In order to prevent an outbreak from occurring, the flight prioritizes catching a disease or an infection before it becomes a trend. With sexually transmitted diseases, Platt explained, the technicians make sure patients have the right treatment, dosage and medication as well as making sure the patient understands how they can protect themselves properly.
Other programs under the PH Flight’s scope is entomology, which encompasses all things related to insects. With a keen interest to mosquitos in particular, Airman Milhouse expounded upon the process in place.
“We go to different parts of the base and set up traps in areas that we believe will accumulate the most mosquitos. Places like the golf course, family campgrounds and base housing traps have seen as many as 100 mosquitos, and we also see the larvae in standing water,” she said.
Traps are comprised primarily of dry ice and light, which attracts the mosquitos. Once obtained, the mosquitos are placed under a microscope. As female mosquitos are the culprits in transmitting the diseases, the males are typically disposed of. The flight also performs tick drags. Ticks, however, are preferred alive, with punctured human flesh to examine and receive the best results.
Lastly, with the largest hearing conservation program in the Air Force, Tinker is equipped with an audiology department who performs testing for active duty members and civilians as well as an occupational medicine clinic to accompany the PH Flight, focusing on hearing education.
“We examine people annually,” Platt said. “Baseline testing is done before entering a hazardous work environment, and a termination exam is done to see if there has been any loss in hearing.”
Having a hand in multiple areas across the installation, the PH Flight serves as an important resource and checkpoint. For deployments, techs give intel briefings and discuss protection and treatments. Each person has to be cleared by every clinic in the medical group, including dental, primary care physicians and gynecologists. The flight is the point of contact for both parties as well, so they make sure members have checked all boxes and are appropriately cleared.
Through education and awareness, the PH Flight dedicates a week for public health to help prevent disease, disability and death. For questions or more information, contact 582-6542.