On March 13, the Congressional Families Cancer Prevention Program, a program of the Prevent Cancer Foundation, teamed up with leaders from the Department of Defense (DoD) to educate over 20 congressional spouses (including a primary health care doctor and a mental health professional) on the military’s Healthy Base Initiative (HBI).
HBI promotes healthier living to military and civilian personnel and their families. The program responds to research indicating that obesity has become a threat to troop readiness and therefore national security because it limits our ability to recruit and retain fit soldiers, according to Chuck Milam, Principal Director of Military Community and Family Policy.
Milam explained that HBI’s pilot program, which is currently found on 14 bases in the U.S. and one international base, focuses on prevention – especially in the areas of obesity and tobacco use. Obesity is a nationwide concern and a serious trend in the military. Tobacco is another problem that plagues the military: 40% of enlisted personnel smoke and 40% of those smokers began smoking when on active duty. Smoking is the biggest risk factor for lung cancer, which kills more people in the U.S. each year than any other cancer. It is critical that people not start smoking and that those who do smoke quit.
As one of HBI’s pilot sites, Fort Meade, Va has already begun making adjustments, including changing their menus, adding a 24-hour fitness center, creating tobacco-free areas and opening a bike lane to get personnel more active, according to Colonel Brian Fooley. Fooley also noted that they are working with local schools to offer nutritional programs and physical activity opportunities for children and that they plan to open a farmers market on the installation this year.
Janine Bera, Marcia Carlucci, Patricia McKeon, Lisa McGovern, Bo Aldige, Deborah Malumed, Lilibet Hagel, Sarah Pallone, Patti Garamendi.
Congressional spouses at the briefing responded enthusiastically and engaged in a robust Q&A session. Much of the conversation delved into the culture of smoking that often exists across the branches and how to break it.
Prevent Cancer is meeting with groups of congressional spouses this week to further explore how to help our military families have healthier choices available on base. The entire family serves our nation and our entire nation owes them not only our gratitude, but our commitment to help them lead healthier lives.