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New DoD Push Aims to Keep You Healthy

The Department of Defense announced this week that 13 sites, including 11 military installations, will be participating in the new Healthy Base Initiative (HBI) , a demonstration project in support of Operation Live Well aimed at increasing the health and wellness of servicemembers and their families.

Operation Live Well “is about educating our military community about the resources and tools available to our people that can help them sustain and improve their health over time,” said Dr. Jonathan Woodson, Assistant Secretary of Defense (Health Affairs) & Director of TRICARE Management Activity in a DoD bloggers roundtable. “It’s about changing their behaviors and promoting healthy lifestyles.”

The Healthy Base Initiative aims to evaluate existing programs to see how well they’re working. It’s not about creating new programs, but coordinating best practices, officials said.

“This demonstration project is designed to identify effective ways to improve the overall health and wellness of servicemembers and their families,” said Charles E. Milam, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy. “Specific efforts will be focused on making informed nutritional food choices, increased physical activity, weight management and tobacco cessation. Many of the services’ and installations’ longstanding programs will be evaluated for effectiveness and return on investment.”

An example of a program that will be measured is “Go for Green,” a labeling system in the Army’s dining facilities. This program educates soldiers about smart nutritional choices by labeling food items green (eat often), amber (eat occasionally), and red (eat rarely).

The initiative will target military spouses and children as well by communicating through spouse networks, family support centers, and family readiness groups. Because many spouses don’t utilize on-base dining facilities and fitness centers where so many of these programs exist, they will also be able to stay involved online through web activities.

“Two-thirds of our servicemembers and families live off installations,” said Milam. “So it’s always a challenge to reach them. But we will be using the web connection from Military OneSource, and we’re connected with the Operation Live Well website  that will be updated on a regular basis.”

This initiative seems to come at an interesting time when so many military families are concerned about how sequestration will affect them. When asked during the roundtable if this is the right time to launch this initiative, Woodson replied that HBI will reduce health care costs in the long term.

“We think this will save money. If you are able to build resilient communities and prevent young people from involving themselves in risky behaviors, in fact, lead people to healthier lifestyles, you will prevent disease and this actually will decrease cost.”

So what do you think about this Healthy Base Initiative? Do you agree with Woodson, who said, “This is the right thing to do. This is the right time to do it?"

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