Fort Meade Joins Healthy Base Initiative Demonstration
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
FORT MEADE, Md., Sept. 16, 2013 As one of 14 pilot installations in the Defense Department’s Healthy Base Initiative, this Maryland post will share its best practices and lessons learned across DOD to promote healthier and more resilient service members, families, retirees and civilian employees, a senior defense official said today.
Army Col. Brian P. Foley, the Fort Meade garrison commander, announced during a ribbon-cutting for the new Army Wellness Center here that the post has been named a demonstration site in the Healthy Base Initiative. The initiative is part of Operation Live Well, a program aimed at making healthy living the easy choice and the social norm.
Participating in the Healthy Base Initiative will help the Defense Department encourage an alternative to the national trend toward obesity and tobacco use, Charles E. Milam, DOD’s principal director for military community and family policy, told American Forces Press Service.
During the demonstration, expected to last about a year, teams of subject matter experts will evaluate the participating installations’ facilities and programs. The reviews will cover everything from fitness and wellness programs being offered to food choices available, Milam said.
Among the team members will be representatives of the Culinary Institute of America, who will help to assess offerings at installation dining facilities, fast-food outlets and vending operations and, when applicable, on-base schools. They will help to identify, for example, if dining facilities need to provide more nutritious alternatives, and will make recommendations to the installation commander.
“This is not about eradicating the fast food on the installation,” Milam emphasized. “It is about providing some choices.”
Assessments conducted at the Healthy Base Initiative installations will provide a baseline review of what’s being offered to support not only improved nutritional choices, but also increased physical activity, obesity reduction and decreased tobacco use, he said.
The assessments will help to clarify “what programs we have in place today, and to figure out what moves the needle and what levers we pull and push and what really works and what doesn’t,” Milam said.
The results will be used to help DOD develop policies for the future that can be shared across the military and beyond installation gates.
“One of the advantages of the program is that not everyone is doing the same thing. We have 14 different sites out there, and they are all doing something a little bit different,” Milam said. “And I believe that at the end, we are going to be able to package the goodness in everything that we learn from this demonstration in a way that we can push it out to the Department of Defense.”
The effort will have a direct impact on readiness and resilience by promoting stronger, healthier and more physically and emotionally strong military members and families, as well as DOD civilians and retirees, he said.
Army Col. Danny B.N. Jaghab, commander of U.S. Army medical Department Activity here, called the new installation wellness center a positive step toward that goal. Its staff will include medical practitioners and health educators focused on preventing disease, injury and disability.
“I’m honored to have the responsibility for delivering programs through the center that will help service members and their families, retirees and Department of Defense civilians build and sustain good health,” he said.
Army Maj. Gen. Dean G. Sienko, commander of U.S. Army Public Health Command, said two studies of existing Army wellness centers show they have a positive impact on their clients in terms of body mass index, body fat, muscle strength, endurance, flexibility, resting heart rate, blood pressure and aerobic capacity.
Based on the data, “these centers work,” Sienko said. “They make people healthier. They will prevent chronic diseases and improve quality-of-life.”
Other participants in the Healthy Base Initiative demonstration 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.