September 19th, 2014 12:24 EST
DoD Health Official Calls Fit Force Key to National Security
By Nick Simeone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
A full 25 percent of applicants to the military are disqualified because they are overweight, and issues related to fitness are the No. 1 reason for early discharges for those on active duty, the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs said here today.
And for the Defense Department`s military and civilian workforce, better health, less obesity and better nutrition also is a national security issue, Dr. Jonathan Woodson told an audience at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital here that included about a dozen middle school children during an event to mark National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month and to demonstrate the Military Health System`s efforts to promote healthy food options.
Poor fitness is shrinking the nation`s pool of eligible military candidates, Woodson said. Over 9 million young adults 17 to 24 are not able to serve because of these issues, " he added, explaining why the nation`s obesity problem has become a national security issue.
The problem has become so acute that last year, the Defense Department established Operation Live Well to encourage healthy eating and living habits for service members, military retirees, DoD civilians, and their families.
Healthy Base Initiative
The Healthy Base Initiative under Operation Live Well seeks to change the environment in which the Military Health System`s beneficiaries live, work and play so the healthy choice is an easy choice, Woodson said, noting the effort`s importance to having a well prepared military.
In our business, we have to be ready at any time to deploy in defense of this nation " You cannot do that if you are not healthy, " he said, adding that the cost to the department in obesity-related issues, including replacing service personnel who don`t make the cut, totals more than $1 billion every year.
Along with many other health officials, Woodson emphasizes that good diet and exercise habits often are formed in childhood.
We need to create the right environments in schools and the lunch programs to promote health and reduce obesity, " he said. That`s something he many schools around the country now do, but statistics show more must be done, he added.
The Department of Defense is here to help you in learning more about how to live well and assist you in your quest to make healthy eating and activity choices, the right choices throughout your life, " Woodson told the audience.
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