Medical Headquarters Joins Healthy Base Initiative
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
FALLS CHURCH, Va., Sept. 12, 2013 Defense medics are practicing what they preach, as the Defense Health headquarters here became the latest installation to embrace the Healthy Base Initiative.
Dr. Jonathan Woodson, the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, laid out the grand scheme behind the initiative in his kick-off remarks. “Today is about being on the move,” he told the joint service audience. “It’s about transforming words into leadership.”
The program is a part of Operation Live Well, aimed at encouraging all members of the military to make healthy choices. “We have the challenges of weight [gain], of cardiovascular health, and too many of our children and even folks within the ranks … have acquired excess weight and unhealthy habits,” he said.
It is more than a “nice to have” program, Woodson said, noting that the biggest reason service members are discharged in their first term of service is for failure to meet weight standards.
This is a readiness problem for the military, said Chuck Milam, the Pentagon’s principal director for military community and family policy. Milam said obesity wasn’t that big a problem in the United States in 1990. Today, however, 40 percent of the states report that obesity is a problem.
The military is not a vacuum, Milam said, pointing out that service members come from the general population. Instilling the proper concern for healthy choices will pay off for years to come, he added. “This is not just a DOD challenge. It is a national challenge,” he said.
Leaders throughout the military are facing the challenge, Woodson said. “It’s not just the Military Health System, it’s about the Military Health System joining with the rest of our community to make this effort a success,” he said.
Leaders are working together to design environments that encourage service members, their families, retirees and DOD civilians to make healthy decisions. “This is about building healthier attitudes and resilience,” he said.
There are some specific problems the military must address, Woodson said. “Within our ranks, we smoke too much and we use tobacco products too much,” he said. “We actually outpace civilian groups for our use of tobacco. We have to take this on and transform and make real inroads if we are going to be a healthier, fit and ready force to defend this nation.”
The headquarters is now one of 14 demonstration sites for the Healthy Base Initiative. Teams will assess the health promotion programs currently available at the 3,000-member headquarters, Milam said. They will examine the food service, the exercise programs, availability of exercise equipment and the time set aside for people to work out.
“When we first kicked [the Healthy Base Initiative] off, we had 40 pages of great ideas,” Milam said. “But nobody could tell me what really moved the needle.” The study will give folks that information, he added.
The headquarters already has a farmers’ market, bringing locally grown produce right to the employees, and that was part of the day-long celebration of the initiative. Employees also participated in yoga, Zumba, a Healthy Iron Chef competition and a fun-run/walk. The headquarters also sponsored nutritional, spiritual and resilience clinics.
The 14 Healthy Base Initiative demonstration sites are: Defense Logistics Agency; Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho; Yokota Air Base, Japan; Fort Bragg, N.C.; Fort Meade, Md.; Fort Sill, Okla.; Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii; Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.; Marine Corps Base Twentynine Palms, Calif.; Camp Dodge, Iowa; Navy Base New London, Conn.; March Air Reserve Base, Calif.; and Coast Guard Base Cape Cod, Mass.