Healthy Base Initiative Seeks Better Lifestyles
By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 18, 2013 Thirteen installations will be assessed for their success in promoting healthy lifestyles for a better total workforce in the Healthy Base Initiative, Defense Department officials announced here today.
As a project of DOD’s Operation Live Well -– in which the goal is to increase the health and wellness of the total force -- the Healthy Base Initiative will assess the 13 installations to develop a program for service members, their families and civilians to take charge of their health through nutrition and fitness, the officials said.
“The idea is to reach out into the communities [and] link projects that build health and environments where our men and women in the service and their families and civilians can make healthy choices,” Dr. Jonathan Woodson, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs told the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service.
The military installations in the initiative are Fort Bragg, N.C.; Fort Sill, Okla.; Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii; Sub Base New London, Conn.; Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho; Yokota Air Base, Japan; Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center/Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command, Twentynine Palms, Calif.; Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.; U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod, Mass.; March Air Reserve Base, Calif.; and Camp Dodge, Iowa. The other two participants are the Defense Logistics Agency, Fort Belvoir, Va.; and Defense Health Headquarters, Falls Church, Va.
From the beginning of April through mid-June, assessments at the installations will consider such factors as healthy commissary offerings, ease of exercising, choices for healthy meals, and what healthy snacks are in vending machines, officials said.
The primary criteria for selecting the installations included commanders who are committed to a healthy lifestyle, sites that have places to work out and places to eat, explained Charles E. Milam, acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy. He added that eight of the sites have on-base schools, and the assessments there also include each school’s fitness and lunch programs.
Following the assessments, the Healthy Base Initiative will kick off in mid-June and continue for about a year, Milam said. At the year’s end, he noted, “We hope to learn from some of the initiatives … at these installations … to determine which programs really make a difference in bringing down obesity, promoting living healthy lifestyles, and increasing level of fitness.”
Weight issues and tobacco cessation also are targets of the Healthy Base Initiative, Woodson said, noting that many service members who are tobacco users developed the habit while deployed.
“We have a moral responsibility to address this issue in a very intensive way,” he said. “We need to get information to individuals to make the right choices, [and] enhance smoking cessation programs.”
Leadership must have a role in modeling behaviors that promote a healthy lifestyle, the doctor said.
“The military is a microcosm of a larger society,” he added. “We’ve got a growing problem in society with obesity. This affects the military,” he said, adding that 27 percent of potential recruits between the ages of 18 and 24 are too overweight to enter the military.
And service members who become overweight can become an issue, Woodson said.
“One of the No.1 causes for release from active duty … is failure to meet height and weight standards,” he said. “This comes at a cost in losing talent and real training dollars that don’t produce a return on investment to the tune of about $1.2 billion.”
Milam’s office is the support part of the Healthy Base Initiative, and works jointly with Woodson’s office.
“We hope to take [initiatives] from our lessons learned and push that out DOD-wide, either through a policy or an implementation strategy,” he said.
“We’re excited about this, [and] we want everyone to be excited about it,” Woodson said. “There is a lot of room for everyone to participate, and most importantly, it’s about individuals taking charge of their destiny.”