VHA Public Health National Program Office (PHNPO)
Public Health National Program Office
Who We Are: The Public Health National Program Office (PHNPO) applies public health principles to identify, assess, and intervene to mitigate preventable exposure and illness.
The Public Health National Program Office (PHNPO) conducts ongoing system-wide public health surveillance, providing VHA with enhanced awareness of public health events in the community and within VHA healthcare centers. Examples include influenza, COVID-19, and MPOX, both case surveillance and vaccination rates.
The Public Health National Program Office (PHNPO) performs a variety of epidemiologic investigations: outbreak investigations, studies to ensure quality of care related to specific high-risk public health concerns, examinations of risk factors associated with diseases among Veterans, and lookback investigations to examine risk to Veterans after potential exposure in accordance with VHA Handbook 1004.08, Disclosure of Adverse Events to Patients (pdf). Examples include evaluation of follow-up testing among patients positive for sexually transmitted diseases, investigation of exposure sources among Veterans with elevated blood lead levels, risk of in-hospital complication associated with COVID-19 and influenza in the VA
Public Health Reference Laboratory
The Public Health Reference Laboratory (PHRL) serves as the national reference laboratory for VHA, aiding in the diagnosis of unusual pathogens, confirming laboratory test results, and testing for infectious diseases of public health importance. Examples include:
- Supporting VHA in times of public health emergency, for example COVID-19 clinical testing and genomic sequencing, orthopox testing, and MPOX confirmatory testing.
- Supporting clinical laboratory testing by providing highly complex infectious disease testing in a cost-effective manner. For example, Hepatitis C virus (HCV) antiviral resistance testing.
- Providing support for outbreak investigation by testing involved organisms for genetic similarities.
- Collaborating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help determine influenza virus strains that are circulating in VHA and how well the current year vaccine matches these strains; detect changes in influenza viruses, which could indicate a novel influenza A/B strain has developed and is circulating and determine whether influenza strains have acquired antiviral resistance.
The Public Health National Program Office (PHNPO) supports VA's Climate Action Plan through targeted public health surveillance activities and administration of the All-Hazards Emergency Cache (AHEC) Program in accordance with VHA Directive 1047(1).
The Public Health National Program Office (PHNPO) regularly publishes their work in peer-reviewed journals, sharing key public health findings with the broader field and maintains a full listing of PHNPO journal publications (PDF).