ASEAN doctors share data, expertise to boost military medical capabilities

ASEAN doctors share data, expertise to boost military medical capabilities

Indo-Pacific military medical practitioners are meeting the region’s health challenges by increasing their capabilities through medical exchanges and data sharing.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Center for Military Medicine (ACMM) based in Bangkok, Thailand, hosts training sessions that bring together participants from the 10 ASEAN member states and other partner nations to share best practices, said Maj. Gen. Dr. Pramote Imwattana, ACMM’s chief secretary, in an interview with Thai broadcaster NBT in June 2019. The training sessions involve everyday challenges and crisis scenarios.

“We held an exchange training for emergency medical response teams that work as mobile emergency rooms,” Imwattana said, “which work in disaster areas. These are very important. All the participating countries were able to exchange their experiences and bring what they learned back to their countries and use this knowledge to enhance their teams and improve their levels of readiness.”

ACMM deployed a 10-person team to help lead an expert working group on military medicine at the MEDEX 2019 Field Training Exercise in Lucknow, India, in March 2019. (Pictured: Personnel from the ASEAN Center for Military Medicine collaborate with an Indian Army instructor at MEDEX 2019 in Lucknow, India.)

ACMM also actively tracks crises throughout the region where medical intervention may be required or where disease outbreaks could occur. It then sends timely updates to ASEAN member nations. Most recently, the center tracked Tropical Storm Podul, which produced floods that killed 33 people and displaced 280,000 families in Laos and Thailand.

ACMM officials met with a delegation of military medicine experts from the U.S. Armed Forces at the ACMM facility in Bangkok in March 2019 to discuss harmonization of cross-border public health surveillance and the prevention of major disease outbreaks, according to U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. The meeting was part of a five-year engagement to “drive a standard for public health surveillance language and practices, as well as create a common operational picture of disease outbreak in the [ASEAN] region.”

ACMM received a status upgrade on June 23, 2019, at the 34th ASEAN Summit in Bangkok when the office of the ASEAN chair announced that it would be formally included as a subsidiary body under the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting in the ASEAN charter.

“With this new status,” stated a news release from the ASEAN chair, “the ACMM can further contribute to enhancing ASEAN cooperation in military medicine, strengthen ASEAN’s response to disasters and help reinforce a people-centered ASEAN community that leaves no one behind.”

Tom Abke is a FORUM contributor reporting from Singapore.