Health & Safety

July 19, 2012

DOD leads drive toward healthier lifestyles

Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON – The Defense Department is taking a leading role in a governmentwide effort to stop the nation’s obesity problem, Barbara Thompson, the director of DOD’s Office of Family Policy/Children and Youth, said.

DOD is one of 17 federal departments and agencies working together to identify opportunities for promoting healthy living as part of the White House’s National Prevention Council strategy, she explained.

“One part of that is preventing obesity,” Thompson told American Forces Press Service and The Pentagon Channel. “It has a huge impact on our quality of life, both for children and adults.”

Thompson noted a national increase in Type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease, believed caused by increased fat, salt and sugar in Americans’ diets at the same time that many children are less active than in previous generations. There was a 40 percent rise in childhood obesity between 1998 and 2008, she said.

The shift toward unhealthier foods and less exercise has developed over the past 30 years or so, and is having a huge impact on health, healthcare costs, and national security, Thompson said. “For the first time, we’re hearing that this generation will not live longer than their parents.”

The Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington-based think tank, issued a major report last month, “Lots to Lose,” written by two former Agriculture secretaries and two former Health and Human Services secretaries, that includes a case study of Defense Department initiatives to counteract obesity, Thompson noted.

DOD’s spending on healthcare is rising at twice the rate as the civilian sector and “unhealthy lifestyles and obesity, in particular, are significant contributors to this trend,” the report says. It has reached $50 billion annually, taking up 10 percent of the overall defense budget.

The trend is wreaking havoc on the services’ ability to recruit, creating a national security imperative, Thompson said, with only 25 percent of 17- to 24-year-olds able to meet the military’s weight standards. The majority of applicants rejected for military service today have obesity issues, she said.

In 2010, 59 percent of female recruits and 47 percent of male recruits failed the military’s entry-level fitness test, the report says.

Of those recruited, the services are seeing large increases in service members with bone fractures, thought to be the result of calcium deficiencies, and so many dental problems that 62 percent of new soldiers were not immediately deployable, the report says.

Preventing Obesity in Children

Thompson’s office instituted a “5-2-1-0” policy for the department’s schools and childcare centers, as well as civilian partners that serve National Guard and Reserve children. The numbers represent five servings of fruits and vegetables, restricting “screen time” — TV and computers — to two hours each day, ensuring one hour of exercise daily, and allowing no sweetened beverages.

“Policy is one of the most powerful tools we have to implement change,” Thompson said. “We’re sharing those lessons learned with civilian community.”

“The bottom line is that we have to make healthy options available and affordable. And parents need to know how important fruits and vegetables are — and small serving sizes.”

Thompson also said, limit electronics, not only because they make kids sedentary, but also because of the advertising. The food industry spends $10 billion annually in marketing food — most of it high in salt or sugar — to children, according to the “Lots to Lose” report.

As part of her “Let’s Move!” campaign to end obesity in a generation, First Lady Michelle Obama has asked food companies with advertising aimed at children to make their products healthier. Last month, Walt Disney became the first to introduce new standards for food advertising to kids. All foods marketed on Disney’s television and radio channels will be required to meet Disney’s nutrition guidelines — which align with federal standards to promote fruit and vegetables and limit calories, sugar, sodium, and saturated fat — by 2015, Disney officials said.

Preventing Obesity in Service Members and Families

The military is working to help service members and their families stay healthy. The Military OneSource website, www.miltaryonesource.mil, offers health coaches for adults and teens to help with weight management and to meet their overall health goals, Thompson said.

And, the first lady’s “Joining Forces” campaign recently announced that health clubs that are part of the International Health Racquet & Sportsclub Association are offering free memberships to immediate family members — teens and older — of deployed reservists and National Guard members. Clubs may provide additional benefits such as childcare, children’s programming, group classes, discounts for veterans, and discounts for active duty families. Participating clubs can be found at www.healthclubs.com. Also, the American Council on Exercise is offering free training and fitness instruction to family members of deployed reservists and National Guard members. Participating instructors can be found at www.acefitness.org/joiningforces.

If the governmentwide efforts and those in DOD seem like a lot just to make Americans healthier, that’s the point, Thompson said.

“We all have to be in this together,” she said. “This is going to take a national effort to change these habits that have been ingrained in us for the past 40 years.”




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Giving life through the Living Donor Program

  As Airmen, it is our responsibility to help each other, as well as our civilian counterparts from day to day. But what if the need was greater than something as simple as a ride to work? What if it was as great as a kidney donation? Located in Sacramento, Calif., The University of California...
 
 

Spiritual doctors support Airmen

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga.  — They don’t work in hospitals, wear lab coats or fix broken bones but they can heal hidden wounds. Some people may refer to them as pastors, while others consider them counselors. But these spiritual doctors are known to the military as chaplains. Chaplains work 24/7 to help members cope...
 
 

Don’t throw a fit — get fit

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, ARIZONA — It’s a controversial topic that has been brought up by many Airmen — changing the abdominal circumference standards on the Air Force fitness assessment test. After months of debate, it was decided by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh III that the standards will stay the same....
 

 

June is Men’s Health Month

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. (AFNS) — Each June, a congressional health education program is promoted to heighten the awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys. Screenings, health fairs, media appearances and other health education activities are held to raise awareness for male health...
 
 

TRICARE’s breast pump policy updates effective July 1

WASHINGTON (AFNS) — TRICARE’s breast pump policy was recently updated to include coverage of breast pumps and supplies, and breastfeeding counseling. These supplies and services will be retroactively covered as of Dec. 19. To get full details about this important benefit change, as well as an opportunity to ask questions, TRICARE will host a Facebook...
 
 

Drug testing: What’s fact or myth?

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, ARIZONA — For those who have donned a military service uniform, most have heard the myths and urban legends that surround random drug testing, with the biggest question being “Is it really random?” With facts received from the 56th Fighter Wing Drug Demand Reduction, this article presents the truth about the...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>