Pathway to a Fit and Healthy Force Improving Performance, Resilience, and Readiness in the Army
As part of the Army’s Ready and Resilient Campaign efforts, Army Medicine is advocating a culture shift by encouraging every Professional Soldier to develop a mindset that drives them to optimize their own health in order to improve their performance and resiliency. There must be an effective way to change mindsets, not just dictate behaviors. As Army Medicine continues to open the aperture, we must look at where health is truly influenced.
Long term success in Army Medicine lies in our ability to effectively impact the “Lifespace.” It is in the Lifespace where the choices we make impact our lives and our health. We understand the patient healthcare encounter to be an average interaction of 20 minutes, approximately five times each year. Therefore, the average annual amount of time spent with each patient is 100 minutes; this represents a very small fraction of one’s life. It is in between the appointments -- in the Lifespace -- where health really happens and where we desire a different relationship with Soldiers, Families, Retirees, and our Civilians. We want to reach beyond the physical boundaries of our medical treatment facilities. In other words, we want to partner with those entrusted to our care during the other 525,500 minutes of the year where people are living their lives and making their health choices. The connection between health and Army readiness is clear. The more we positively influence health, the better our Army is able to answer our Nation’s call.
The Lifespace is where we make decisions on Sleep, Activity, and Nutrition (SAN). Army Medicine’s operational approach to these three key components of health – Sleep, Activity, and Nutrition -- is the Performance Triad. We want to illustrate to our patients that they can positively impact their health by investing in these triad of factors. Getting back to the basics of Sleep, Activity, and Nutrition -- as both leaders and healthcare providers---are key in optimizing personal and health, performance and resilience.
Physical activity encompasses more than just exercise at the gym. Regular activity throughout the day can improve health by reducing stress, strengthening the heart and lungs, increasing energy levels, and improving mood. Similarly, quality nutrition and sleep management can serve as key components in promoting health, preventing disease, and achieving or maintaining a healthy body weight. Chronic poor sleep may increase your risk for stroke, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. We think better, feel better, and perform better when our bodies are well nourished, well rested, and healthy.
While the Army may have a more visible influence in the Lifespace and health of its active duty population, the challenges become greater with the Army Reserve and National Guard – the reserve components (RC). The RC provides strategic depth and flexibility to the capabilities of our Force and has a valuable connection to the broader US population. A significant percentage of Army capabilities are within the RC, therefore, when it pertains to readiness of the Force, the Performance Triad is just as important for the reserve component Warriors as it is for those who serve on active duty full-time. Finding innovative ways to extend our influence into the Lifespace of the Reserve and National Guard is an important avenue to pave, and may set the stage for Army Medicine to truly strengthen the health of our Nation by impacting those in uniform who work within our civilian communities.
Across all age groups and medical conditions, the impact of restful sleep, regular physical activity, and good nutrition are visible in both the short- and long-term. While each component is independently important, optimal performance is achieved when all three are addressed simultaneously. Making lasting changes in health behaviors works best when approached through multiple channels. There will be a change in how we educate our medical providers to view sleep, activity, and nutrition – making the pillars of the Performance Triad a part of any medical encounter.
The Performance Triad is bringing together the US Army Public Health Command (PHC), US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (MRMC), US Army Forces Command (FORSCOM), Army Medical Department Center and School, US Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), and the US Army Installation Management Command (IMCOM). The people who have the greatest impact on Soldier behaviors do not reside in military hospitals and clinics – they are the unit leaders, mentors, and Family in the Lifespace. The goal is to make this a part of the DNA of the Army – sleep discipline, daily activity, and good nutritional decisions.