By Ms. Chanel Weaver (USAPHC)February 19, 2014
The weekends can sometimes be pretty quiet at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., but that was not the case on a recent Sunday morning at the installation's Army Wellness Center.
Thirty-eight Army Reserve Soldiers from the Army Medical Command's 7221st Medical Support Unit based out of Newark, Del; had an opportunity to visit the center Feb. 9, and witness its capabilities firsthand.
The event--the first to do a full fitness assessment of an Army Reserve unit at an AWC--was organized by Lt. Col. Bradley Nindl, who is dual-hatted as the unit commander and Scientific Advisor at the U.S. Army Public Health Command.
"Soldiers in Army Reserve units generally have lower medical readiness percentage than those of active-duty units," said Nindl. "We wanted to provide Army Reservists with the tools they needed to improve their health and wellness, and leverage the technology available in the Army Wellness Centers."
Although the event was completely voluntary, more than 90 percent of the unit participated in the health assessment.
AWCs are a key element in the Army surgeon general's long-term strategy of refocusing Army medicine from a healthcare system to a system for health by emphasizing primary prevention, which means stopping diseases and chronic conditions before they start. AWCs also support the Ready and Resilient Campaign and the Performance Triad, an Army medicine effort to focus on three components that build and sustain individual health and unit readiness--sleep, activity and nutrition.
"Through Army Wellness Centers, Soldiers learn to take control of and responsibility for their own health," said Nindl. "Especially for those of us who are Reservists without easy access to these centers, it's empowering to gain the knowledge these assessments provide."
AWCs offer six core programs including health assessment review, physical fitness, healthy nutrition, stress management, general wellness education, and tobacco education.
Each of these programs is based in science and uses the highest sports medicine, fitness training and health standards to help Army personnel create environments where healthy behavior can take place.
Maj. Zachary Solomon, Army Wellness Center project officer, said one of the most popular services AWCs offer is the metabolic testing. The test, which can be administered at any Army Wellness Center, helps individuals determine the number of calories their body burns just sustaining life.
"It tells an individual how many calories to consume each day in order to lose, maintain or gain weight," said Solomon.
In addition to the metabolic testing, Soldiers also performed a variety of fitness tests to determine their overall health and fitness level.
Sgt. Barbara Majoca is a licensed practical nurse, so she knows the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle. Although Majoca frequently counsels her patients on ways to achieve better nutrition and fitness, she knows that she needs to practice what she preaches. When she learned that her Army Reserve unit would have an opportunity to serve as a pilot for Army Wellness Center services, she immediately volunteered to be included in the unit assessment.
"I wanted to be healthy," said Majoca. "I am here to learn what I need to do improve my health."
Majoca was quite appreciative of the AWC assessment technology that was available.
"I know that these services are expensive in the civilian sector, and the Public Health Command is really helping us by offering us these services at no cost to the Soldier," said Majoca.
Capt. Madhu Kasipathy serves in a dual capacity as an Army and civilian dentist. Because of his demanding job, Kasipathy spends a great deal of time attending to the needs of others, often neglecting his own health. He volunteered for the AWC assessment to take responsibility for improving his health. He said one of the easiest things to do was complete the AWC questionnaire that asks about a person's sleep, activity and nutrition habits, tobacco use, alcohol use and stress levels.
"It only took about 15 minutes to complete, and gave me instant feedback to help me reach and maintain my fitness and wellness goals," said Kasipathy.
He said he intends to use the wellness center in the future.
"I am looking forward to the opportunity to see where I am, and where I need to improve," he said.
Among the many attendees at the unit assessment was Col. Jacqueline Bradley, commander of the 4215th U.S. Army Hospital in Richmond, Va.
Bradley and her battle buddy, Command Sgt. Maj. Sonja Brewer, thought it was important to visit the Aberdeen AWC to encourage the reservists to achieve their health goals. Bradley said that ensuring the health and readiness of the Reserve force is a key goal of the Army, and the AWCs are an excellent resource to assist commanders in achieving that objective.
"The first Army Wellness Center I visited was located at Carlisle Barracks, Pa., and I know firsthand that the AWCs offer a holistic approach to taking care of Soldiers," said Bradley. "While there, I even received customized advice on how to select healthy food when I am grocery shopping."
Bradley said that the Army Wellness Center services are transferable.
"What amazed me was that when I returned to Fort Meade, Md., my record was transferred there, and the experts at that wellness center were able to follow up to ensure that I continued my progress," said Bradley. "The quality of care was the same at Fort Meade and Carlisle Barracks."
Todd Hoover, Army Wellness Center Operations program manager at the USAPHC, was delighted to hear that Bradley received the same level of care at both wellness centers.
He said the standardization of services is a goal that the program tries to achieve across the Army.
Hoover helped to stand up the first Army Wellness Centers in Germany, and since then, new AWCs have been springing up at Army installations all over the United States. So far, 19 AWCs have been opened, and the USAPHC has a goal of standing up 37 by the end of fiscal year 2018.
Although the team is waiting to see how the visit to the Aberdeen AWC will benefit Army Reservists, Hoover said AWCs have already demonstrated great results.
"We are seeing decreases in body mass index for users of our services, said Hoover. "Overall, Army Wellness Centers are demonstrating positive outcomes in people that have repeat visits."
At the conclusion of the day's activities, Bradley and Nindl presented awards to various individuals who sacrificed their weekend to do the unit assessments.
"We had unbelievable support from various personnel at the Public Health Command and the Army Wellness Center to ensure today's testing was beneficial," said Nindl.
Although the accolades were appreciated, Hoover said the AWC staff members are always committed to helping Soldiers maintain healthier lifestyles.
"This is what we do," said Hoover. "AWCs exist to support readiness and improve resiliency in our Army population."