A fit and healthy fighting force is the foundation of a strong national defense. But in the United States, poor health, obesity, lack of physical fitness, and tobacco use pose a growing threat to the Department of Defense (DoD)’s four “Rs”: recruitment, retention, readiness, and resilience. A few observations underscore the scale of the challenge:
- Recruitment: In 2010, 27 percent of recruits did not qualify for the military due to height/weight standards. By 2030, 64 percent of potential recruits will not qualify due to their weight.
- Retention: Failure to meet weight standards is a leading cause of involuntary separation from the military, and obesity in the civilian community is limiting DoD’s ability to recruit qualified personnel.
- Readiness and Resilience: More service members were evacuated from Iraq and Afghanistan for serious sprains and fractures than for combat injuries; “overweight or less-fit young men and women are at a higher risk for these injuries.”
- Fiscal Impact: Treating the effects of obesity and tobacco-related illnesses costs DoD over $3 billion annually.
The Healthy Base Initiative (HBI) was a short-term demonstration project designed to inform DoD’s long-term strategy called Operation Live Well (OLW) to make “healthy living the easy choice and the norm for service members, retirees, DoD civilians, and their families.” Launched in 2014 at fourteen pilot sites, HBI was an innovative, multi-faceted approach to (1) assess the current health and wellness status of the military community and of military environments, (2) test evidence-based initiatives, (3) measure results, and (4) provide lessons and recommendations for OLW.
This report documents DoD’s experience with HBI, describing the different programs and interventions undertaken at HBI pilot sites, the process used to select these interventions, the successes and challenges that emerged during implementation, and the results of baseline assessment and outcome measurement efforts. Consistent with the objective of informing future DoD efforts to promote health and wellness, and OLW in particular, significant portions of the report discuss lessons learned and recommendations both generally and with respect to specific HBI programs and interventions.
The following institutions and organizations support the Healthy Base Initiative effort: Alliance for a Healthier Generation – Altitude – Arrowstreet Architecture and Design – Balanced Scorecard Institute – Booz Allen Hamilton Strategy and Technology Consultants – Cambia Health Solutions – Cornell University College of Human Ecology – Cornell University Food and Brand Lab – The Culinary Institute of America – Defense Commissary Agency – Deloitte – Department of Defense Education Activity – Office of Health Affairs – The Hudson Institute – Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health – Kurbo Health – Office of Military Community and Family Policy – CBRE (formerly PKF Consulting USA) – Prevention Partners – Spider Strategies – Share Our Strength– Wholesome Wave