Making Health a Lifestyle Destination


Summary: The hospital is the center of sickness, not the center of health. We must make living a healthy lifestyle a fit with family routines. Imagine if we combined a fitness center for adults and kids, with a center for primary care, a healthy cafe and lounge, a study and reading library, education and training classrooms, a fitness coach office, and a short-term child care center - oh and throw in some of those egg-looking napping pods. Outside the building is an outdoor fitness and child's play area and perhaps a covered area for a periodic fresh produce market (or the commissary).


Some of us older folks remember the term "OODA loop" (observe, orient, decide, act) from Desert Storm days in which then Gen Colin Powel famously said that we must get inside the enemy's decision cycle - his OODA loop. Similarly, to shape a healthy lifestyle or to get inside a family's "lifespace" we must find a way to become a part of that space - a part of the family routine and community culture.

The hospital is the center of sickness, not the center of health. Imagine if we combined a fitness center for adults and kids, with a center for primary care, a healthy cafe and lounge, a study and reading library, education and training classrooms, a fitness coach office, and a short-term child care center - oh and throw in some of those egg-looking napping pods. Outside the building is an outdoor fitness and child's play area and perhaps a covered area for a periodic fresh produce market (or the commissary). (See example diagram below.)

This kind of combined facility serves many, often competing needs. For example, my wife often found it challenging to work out b/c she needed child care when our children were very young. Today, my 7 yr old loves to come with me to the gym, but no equipment is designed for him nor is any other kid fitness activity available.

Imagine now that we integrated activity technology and this facility: You've seen your PCM and fitness coach and designed an exercise plan on a system connected to the exercise machines. When you put in your CAC card, your exercise dashboard comes into view and gaming mechanics motivates you to achieve that day's goal. Upon successful completion, it registers "health points" that can be used for discounts in the "Health Cafe & Lounge." Because you went with a group of friends, you're watching to see who got a "health point" discount - good 'ol peer pressure. While you were exercising, your child (and your friend’s child whom met you at the center) were doing homework in the library and perhaps had a tutor there. Alternately, your child and their friend, too, worked out in the kids’ fitness center.

We must create a venue that promotes a healthy-living lifestyle while fitting within the routine needs of the military family. If we can create the conditions where peer and cultural influence promote health, we can drive down healthcare costs, increase readiness, and improve health.

One final key note: We must support this lifestyle in our work expectations whenever possible. It’s easy to see where a homemaker spouse can utilize this facility as part of a daily or weekly routine. However, short of war preparation or other crisis, commanders at all levels must kick their soldiers out the door at 16:30-17:00 so they can engage with their friends and/or family in this lifestyle. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day to leave work at 18:00-19:00 then have enough energy to help children do homework, cook a healthy meal, complete any number of domestic chores and get decent nights sleep. Our lifespace centers will not create a culture of health alone.

Try it out