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NEWS | March 20, 2020

Pacific Pride Soldiers make plans to promote preventive health in Palau

By Maj. Melodie Tafao 9th Mission Support Command

The 1984th United States Army Hospital-Pacific, under the 9th Mission Support Command, headquartered in Fort Shafter Flats, Honolulu, is partnering with the University of Hawaii, Manoa, to host a three-day leadership camp focusing on preventive health for the youth population of Palau on June 3-5, 2020.

Palau is an island country in the western Pacific Ocean, almost 5,000 miles from Hawaii with a population close to 18,000. It is one of only a few countries that have universal health care coverage; however, the Ministry of Health is concerned about the well-being of the country and its citizens.

“Non-Communicable Diseases account for 65 percent of hospital costs and almost 90 percent of our medical referrals costs, not including the loss of productivity and opportunity,” wrote the Honorable Minister of Health, Gregorio Ngirmang, in the Non-Communicable Disease Prevention and Control Strategic Plan of Action. “Even more alarming is the threat to future generations of Palauans, our children. Current data indicate high rates of obesity, tobacco and alcohol use in Palau’s school-aged children.”

This concern was communicated to the 9th Mission Support Command, the most ethnically diverse, geographically dispersed command in the U.S. Army Reserve, crossing seven time zones, two U.S. states, two U.S. territories, a commonwealth and two foreign countries.

Second Lt. Thomas Lee, assigned to the 1984th USAH-P as a health care administrator and platoon leader for first platoon, is uniquely postured to assist. Lee is also an Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Hawaii, Manoa and teaches courses in Epidemiology and Global Health. A Memorandum of Understanding, signed in 2018 between Indo-Pacific Command and University of Hawaii gives Lee the opportunity to support both INDOPACOM and Palau.

Lee will be supporting these efforts in his civilian capacity, but he will also have a team that will consist of a dietitian, combat medics and medical surgical nurses from the 1984th USAH-P, with one of the nurses specializing in Pediatrics, and a dietitian and physical therapy technician from Regional Health Command Pacific at Tripler Army Medical Center.

“The original intent was to go multiple times throughout the school year and teach, but the two principals for the public schools, one elementary and one high school, had some concerns because they weren’t sure how it was going to affect their normal curriculum,” said Lee. However, “we worked together and figured out that a three-day summer camp would be a good idea.”

The camp will consist of 30 fifth-graders and 22 high school students. While the curriculum hasn’t been finalized yet, Lee is focused on two distinct areas of concern.

“My purpose is two-fold. One is to get at the youth of Palau because we’re still able to change their behavior. We want to target the youth. They’re the next generation, and we can still impact them with this camp,” Lee said. “The other part is working with the person who’s in charge of the school surveys and the health surveys for the MOH in Palau. We already have a data sharing set up, and I have one of my master students do the analysis that they need and requested so prior to [arriving] in June, they get what they want, and we can also help them with further analysis as well.”

University of Hawaii and 1984th USAH-P are excited for an engaging summer program to benefit the youth and the island country of Palau. You can follow their event on Instagram @camp_to_the_future_palau.