An Initiative to Promote and Maintain Healthy Eating in the Military

The MHS’s Quadruple Aim for population health, experience of care, per capita costs and readiness should embrace the basic concept of good nutrition. The MHS can lead the way within their facilities to only promote quality nutrition to it’s patients and employees by removing processed foods and vending machines that cater to high salt, sugar and fat content as well as in on site cafeterias and mess halls. Poor nutrition is the foundation of our current healthcare crisis but few venues want to lead the way in truly promoting primary prevention tactics to improve upon the basic quality of health. There is a fear of loss of profits; however, by the promotion of quality nutrition, per capita healthcare costs would ultimately decrease along with the decrease of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and lowering of BMI. On a large scale, promotion of better foods would decrease overall healthcare costs, increase food diversity in the farming industry, and aid a rising population suffering from chronic disease and food allergies.

CONCEPT Basic nutrition courses should be available to all beneficiaries. Many young families come into the military family and are unaware how nutrition effects mind/body health. For example, commissaries can provide cooking courses and competitive food prices on healthy foods. Based on this concept I propose two pilot studies:

The first pilot study would provide a mandatory cooking class to a group of incoming recruits (married and single living off post and on post) and incorporate healthy eating practices when eating out and/or eating in the mess hall. Families would be allowed to participate including children. This course can provide how to select foods at the commissary, how to select menu items and how to prepare healthy meals.

Using a simple survey, recruits and their families (if applicable) can rate their knowledge of nutrition before and after the class is over. A six month and one year follow up survey can be disseminated to see how many are practicing healthy eating and any barriers they have run into that they feel prevents them from eating healthy.

The second pilot study would be at a MTF in which the facility promotes healthy eating options. The set up will include an area in which no candy or soda vending machines would be on a particular wing or floor of the MTF, and one cafeteria will only serve healthy menu choices (no fried foods, desserts etc). Staff will be knowledgeable about foods recommendations for diabetics, CVD, hypertension along with those who have a gluten, peanut or lactose allergy.

The survey will include data to those that use the health based cafeteria and will take recommendations to improve menu options.

“The continued rise in healthcare costs could impact other DoD programs and could potentially affect areas related to military capability and readiness.” (Dall et al., 2007, p120).

The immediate response to this initiative will only affect a small group of people in the beginning; nonetheless, the information collected from the survey's feedback could be shared throughout the MHS with far-reaching positive health effects. It will show that the MHS strongly believes in primary prevention strategies and is paving ways to make healthy eating convenient, commonplace, and expected. By putting nutrition tools in the hands of the people they will become empowered and begin demanding good nutrition to be mainstream, not an alternative way of eating. Good nutrition is not a mystery and the information to make better menu item choices are readily available to MHS through their dietitians and nutritionist. Change is possible and MHS can lead the way to preventative health success.

Try it out