ARLINGTON, VA (November 26, 2018) -- The Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19) Army Study Program is underway and will include nineteen efforts, varying greatly in their focus. Among the valuable studies proposed this year, The Office of The Surgeon General of the Army is sponsoring a notable effort of interest specifically to Soldiers and their families. The project, entitled "Identification of Soldier-Centric Risk Factors for Targeted Health Behavior and Readiness Interventions", asserts that maintaining individual Soldier health, preventing injury, and promoting continued healthy lifestyle choices are among the largest obstacles influencing force readiness.
Individual Soldier readiness is arguably among the top factors in mission success. Senior Leaders recognize that mitigating risky lifestyle behaviors is a crucial part of maintaining a ready and resilient force. Soldiers face many challenges when it comes to making healthy lifestyle choices, particularly in the areas of sleep, activity, and nutrition (SAN). While maintaining healthy SAN behaviors can be a challenge for most people, Soldiers often face unique challenges directly related to Soldier-centric factors such as deployments, rank, or occupational specialty.
Promoting healthy SAN behaviors has remained a priority for Army Leaders as they strive to maintain a high level of overall health, readiness, and performance among the force. Studies have been performed in the past that focus on these factors, and programs such as the Performance Triad have made an effort to provide resources and support to Soldiers in making and maintaining healthy SAN behavior choices. However, few previous efforts have focused specifically on how Soldier-centric factors may serve as risk or protective aspects for healthy behaviors.
The current project will focus on these Soldier-centric factors and examine the link between said factors and Soldiers' SAN behaviors. Researchers will use data collected during the Performance Triad program in addition to previous research and literature to address two main questions: In what ways do Soldier-centric factors differentially predict Soldiers at risk for poor health behaviors? Second, in what ways do Soldier-centric factors predict health behavior change?
This effort aims to increase understanding of the impact that these factors have on health behaviors. The results of this study can inform Army policy and program decision-makers by helping to identify Soldiers at greater risk for health issues, and those that may benefit from additional health education, intervention, or support. Additionally, these findings may assist leaders in developing or enhancing programs and initiatives to support Soldiers at greater risk for poor SAN behaviors that result in poor readiness outcomes. Finally, the results of the effort will provide evidence that Army leadership can use to tailor existing programs that are addressing the needs of Soldiers.
Dr. Kerry Whittaker, Principal Investigator at the Research Facilitation Laboratory states it best: "Previous work with initiatives like the Performance Triad demonstrate a clear need to focus on enhancing Soldiers' health behaviors. As the Army continues efforts to improve Soldiers' health and readiness, understanding the contribution of Soldier-centric factors on health behaviors such as sleep, activity, and nutrition can provide actionable insight on ways for both Leaders and Soldiers to improve their overall health, readiness, and well-being". This analysis will allow leaders to identify Soldiers in need, optimize the effectiveness of existing programs, and provide support for initiatives that effectively promote Soldiers' health behaviors. The results have the potential for long-term savings both in medical and readiness costs to the Army.