In the Navy Department the maintenance of all personnel in the highest possible state of health and physical readiness is the responsibility of the commanding officer. The commanding officer, in turn, looks to the Medical Department for advice, recommendations, and establishment of standards.
The old adage An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is an excellent guide to modern preventive medicine practice and certainly holds true in the Navy, where we are interested in keeping a man on the job rather than on the sicklist.
No matter what duties hospital corpsmen are assigned to, a phase of their work will always be aimed at preventing injury and disease and maintaining the health of their shipmates. This chapter will familiarize you with the basics of preventive medicine and help you understand the principles of maintaining good health in everyday living.
Because of the close living quarters in the Navy, particularly aboard ships, personal hygiene is of utmost importance. Disease or ill health can spread and rapidly affect an entire compartment or division in a short period.
Personal hygiene promotes health and prevents disease. Some military personnel tend to be lax in paying strict attention to their personal hygiene. As a corpsman you will be responsible for recognizing signs of neglect, either at sick call or in the performance of your duties as a Medical Department Representative (MDR) and petty officer. You must also be especially scrupulous in your own personal hygiene, both to set a good example and to prevent the direct acquisition or spread of illness from patient and to yourself.
Corpsmen are responsible for presenting health education training programs to the personnel of their unit. In addition to stressing the basics of personal hygiene, they must draw attention to proper foot care, exercise, nutrition, and sleep as important factors in maintaining good health.
Uncleanliness or disagreeable odor will surely affect the morale of your shipmates. A daily bath or shower will assist in the prevention of body odor and is absolutely necessary to maintain cleanliness. The daily shower also aids in the prevention of common skin diseases. Shampoo the hair at least once weekly, using a commercial shampoo of your choice. The importance of washing your hands at appropriate times cannot be overemphasized. Always wash your hands with soap and water after using the toilet and before meals.
Proper foot care is a vital factor in the overall performance of personnel, both ashore and afloat. Remember the foot gear you were issued in boot camp? If the fit was not perfect, the following weeks were most unpleasant for you. Proper fitting of shoes and socks is just one aspect of the problem. In military exercises, especially ashore, the feet are exposed to tremendous stress. The corpsmans job of monitoring foot conditions will be made easier if the units personnel have been taught to clean and dry their feet regularly, especially between the toes; to use foot powder to deter chafing and to promote absorption; to change socks and boots or shoes regularly, especially in wet environments; and to have foot disorders medically evaluated and treated promptly to prevent potentially disabling problems.
Proper exercise increases the bodys resistance to certain diseases, promotes its digestive and excretory function, and decreases ones risk for atherosclerotic heart disease (the nations leading cause of premature death and disability). Improved muscle tone and physical endurance help the individual to fulfill military tasks and raise the level of self-confidence as well as improve the psychological disposition. Working outside in the fresh air enhances the value of exercise and