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Volume 9, No. 2     May 03, 2013
In Brief...
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As a nation, we have seen an ever-increasing rate of morbidity and mortality due to preventable diseases. To address this issue, the office of the Surgeon General has developed the National Prevention Strategy (NPS) that clearly identifies a plan to a healthier and happier nation1. Commissioned officers can be instrumental in the implementation of these strategies by actively engaging their communities. The Corps is well-suited to convey the message of the NPS given our breadth of expertise and our expanse across the country. Furthermore, as public health officials, we have our nation’s health as a top priority and stand ready to make a difference.

One way for officers to make a difference is through their participation in the Prevention through Active Community Engagement (PACE) Program. The PACE program takes advantage of existing community outreach infrastructure and pairs it with the expertise of the Corps officer. An example of this type of community engagement is currently ongoing in Montgomery County, MD just outside of our nation’s capital. A collaboration has been developed with Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) to take advantage of their connection resource bank (CRB). The CRB encourages teachers to identify educational needs that can be addressed by outside experts, who then provide focused educational lessons to students. Many of these requests are health care related and provide an excellent opportunity to introduce the lessons of the NPS to children that range in grade from kindergarten through high school. In this particular collaboration, officers register with the MCPS CRB along with the PACE program as a volunteer. After registration, a representative from MCPS will contact the officer and notify them of upcoming events they are planning. Additionally, officers may be individually contacted depending on their area of expertise for a specific event. Upon finding an event that is of interest, the officer then arranges with the requesting teacher to present on the given topic. The format and content of the presentation is typically decided by the officer, and the only program requirements are that the officer A) explains the purpose of the Commissioned Corps, and B) incorporate the lessons from the NPS into the event.

In addition to establishing collaborations with the public, the PACE program has also developed a highly sophisticated system for reporting and tracking officer’s efforts using readily available internet based management applications such as email, websites, and productivity software. Using these tools, the program has been able to develop a post-event reporting form that tracks individual officer’s efforts. This form captures distinct parameters associated with the event including: officer category, event type, number of students, age of students, and how the NPS was incorporated into the event. Recording these parameters allows the program to easily recognize an individual officer’s effort, but also provides a mechanism to identify and report statistics about regarding the implementation of the NPS to the community.

As of April 2013, the PACE program has participated in 5 events, for a total of 16 student contact hours, that have resulted in 61 elementary and middle school children learning about the benefits of healthy choices, which is a major focus of the NPS. Each event has been distinct, ranging from personal tutoring to highly interactive group science presentations. Given the diversity of the student base and the type of event, incorporation of the NPS can be challenging, but our officers have found ways to relate topics such as renewable energy and basic chemistry back to the NPS. In addition to participating in individual school events, officers participating in the PACE program are actively developing engaging and interactive NPS presentations that will be crafted to engage specific age groups. Specifically, a Science Category working group has been formed with the focus of developing 4 presentations that will target Kindergarten-2nd, 3rd-5th, 6th-8th, and 9th-12th grades. Upon completion, these presentations will be made available to officers across the country to implement at their community level.

The National Prevention Strategy is more than just a plan to a healthier nation. This document is a mechanism by which we can highlight the talents, leadership, and value that Corps officers provide to the nation. The PACE program is the conduit for the officer to reach their community and share a part of the National Prevention Strategy as it fits with their expertise. To achieve this goal, we are constantly looking for new officers to help participate and build the program. If you are interested in learning more about the PACE program or if you would like to volunteer please contact LT John Pesce (john.pesce@nih.gov) or LT Leo Angelo Gumapas (leoangelo.gumapas@nih.gov).