Australian Defence Force, USINDOPACOM host health security workshop

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Dr. Stephanie Petzing and Maj. Camille Effler/U.S. Indo-Pacific Command

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) and U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) advanced their robust and productive partnership with a military-civilian Pacific health security workshop in late April 2021.

The first day of the two-day multilateral, multisectoral event, titled “Building Capacity in Planning and Execution of Exercises,” included training on the planning, design and execution of global health security exercises. On the second day, participants applied new skills to plan a tabletop exercise (TTX) to be held June 16-17, 2021.

“Our national and regional defense, security, public health agencies and resources must be able to work together seamlessly to effectively prevent, detect and respond to health threats wherever they emerge,” Commodore Nicole Curtis, ADF director general for operational health, said in her opening remarks.

Participants ranged from policymakers and strategic planners to front-line workers. Delegates, including representatives from Pacific island nations, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and Thailand took part in facilitated discussion. Several Papua New Guinea representatives gathered in person to join the meeting, pictured.

Using input from partner nations, the group identified key gaps in health security preparedness as focus areas, such as the need to reach across sectors, communicate risk effectively and use TTXs to evaluate health-security capacity despite funding limitations. Based on these shared priorities, the participants created an exercise that will be further developed and tailored to the partners’ needs. Participants also will use the TTX to gain additional buy-in from their countries and the region.

The two-day event assisted regional partners in using exercise concepts and design to enhance national and regional pandemic preparedness and to support the development and validation of national and regional global health security-related plans.

It was the latest event co-hosted by the ADF and USINDOPACOM global health security partnership that began in 2018 at the Global Health Security Agenda Ministerial Meeting in Indonesia. The partnership transitioned to virtual discussions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and organizers said the collaboration continued to gain momentum due to the strong engagement of partner nations. The partnership conducted a series of webinars that discussed the contribution of military- and security-sector resources to regional COVID-19 responses, as well as lessons learned from the military-security sector and civilian-sector coordination and collaboration.

Common themes emerged from the webinars, including the need for pandemic preparedness and planning and for increased capacity to conduct joint planning, training and exercises, which led to development of the April workshop.

Health security is a national, regional and global security issue. It is critical that countries have the capacity to engage across sectors and develop relationships in advance of health crises. Partner nations must regularly exercise these relationships and networks to achieve and maintain this capacity. By supporting capacity building in multisectoral global health security TTX development, the ADF-USINDOPACOM partnership is supporting country ownership of health-security capacities and continuing to expand partnerships to build and preserve a Free and Open Indo-Pacific.


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