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Building Healthy Military Communities


NACDD is working closely with State Health Departments, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Defense Health Agency (DHA) to help improve strategic communication and collaboration to address the upstream factors of chronic disease such as tobacco use, physical activity, and nutrition for our nation’s 1.38 million military service members and their families.

A fit and healthy fighting force is the foundation of a strong national defense. In the United States, poor health, obesity, lack of physical fitness, and tobacco use pose a growing threat to the Department of Defense’s (DoD) four “Rs”: recruitment, retention, readiness, and resilience. A few observations underscore the scale of the challenge:

  • Recruitment – In 2010, 27 percent of recruits did not qualify for the military due to height/weight standards. By 2030, 64 percent of potential recruits will not qualify due to their weight.
  • Retention – Failure to meet weight standards is a leading cause of involuntary separation from the military. Additionally, obesity in the civilian community is limiting DoD’s ability to recruit qualified personnel.
  • Readiness and Resilience – More service members were evacuated from Iraq and Afghanistan for serious sprains and fractures than for combat injuries; “overweight or less-fit young men and women are at a higher risk for these injuries.”
  • Fiscal Impact – Treating the effects of obesity and tobacco-related illnesses costs DoD over $3 billion annually.

Efforts such as the Healthy Base Initiative (HBI) found that the DoD and the Services tend to build their own programs, often under the assumption that outside organizations would not understand the military or offer programs that meet the military’s needs. However, most of the challenges that the DoD and its Service members face are also present in the civilian (i.e., community) sector.

Contact the Military Portfolio Lead

Contact Catherine McCann at to learn more about the NACDD military portfolio of work and how you can partner with NACDD.

NACDD Action on Military Health

NACDD continues to collaborate with the CDC and the Defense Health Agency to identify approaches to increase strategic communication and partnerships between state and local public health, community development efforts, and the DoD to create healthy communities that support Service member recruitment, readiness, and retention.

The Building Healthy Military Communities Toolkit

This resource is designed for DoD service providers (e.g., clinical, public/population health, family service programs, etc.) and other community-based organizations that support Service members and their families.

It provides tactics and strategies to engage in effective communications with public health and related agencies. It also outlines methods for identifying national and state resources available to Service members. More importantly, it provides guidance on evidence-based practices that have the potential to reach more Service members by promoting the health of the communities in which they live.

With a few exceptions, this resource does not include DoD resources. The intent is to increase knowledge of civilian resources and evidence-based practices that can be adopted to enhance the DoD’s efforts to help Service members, potential recruits, and their families meet readiness standards.

Since military and civilian operations do not interact on a regular basis, public health professionals can encourage their new and existing military partners to use this resource.

Webinar: How Public Health and the Department of Defense Can Work Together to Improve Our Nation's Health and Security

NACDD hosted a webinar on May 23, 2019, focusing on how public health and the DoD can work together to improve our nation's health and security. The webinar featured a speaker from the Defense Health Agency who described the unique public health needs of our nation’s service members followed by two examples of state-based approaches to military and civilian collaboration from North Carolina and Florida.

Access Webinar Slides

2020 Public Health Showcase Posters

National Association of Chronic Disease Directors
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