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Well-being Drives New Focus at MHS Conference Session

By Jayne Davis, DCoE Strategic Communications on February 09, 2012

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Dr. Jonathan Woodson, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, delivers the opening speech at the 2012 Military Health System (MHS) Conference, held at the Gaylord National Hotel and Convention Center in National Harbor, Md., Jan. 31, 2012. The MHS aims to ensure the medical readiness of U.S. service members, and to provide a ready medical force. (DoD photo by Johnny Bivera)

Break-out sessions during the 2012 Military Health System Conference, Jan. 30 - Feb. 2 in National Harbor, Md., offered a crowd of approximately 3,000 military medical professionals hands-on opportunities to learn from each other and contribute to the focus on building health within the Defense Department.

Following the conference theme, “Health Care to Health,” Dr. Mark Bates, Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE), Resilience and Prevention director, opened the session, “Integrating Health Promotion, Risk Reduction and Prevention Programs,” with a question: “How many of you in the audience think pay is the reason people stay in the military?”

A knowing audience concurred that satisfaction and happiness derived from the experience was the reason; an answer that reinforces the significance of well-being as a driver of mental and emotional health.

“Well-being has both a cognitive component—satisfaction with life and a sense of purpose—and a happiness component, feelings associated with deep satisfaction,” said Bates. “By establishing well-being as a strategic metric across health promotion, prevention and treatment programs, we can realize an improved integrated effort to build health across the force and increase effectiveness, efficiencies and synergies in these programs.”

Integrating well-being strategies, a focus of the DCoE Resilience and Prevention directorate, with medical care extends the network of people responsible for health goals in the military community and reflects the goals of population health models (prevention strategies in a population).

Dr. Colanda Cato, DCoE Resilience and Prevention directorate, clinical psychologist, expanded on that concept in an overview of three population health models: National Prevention Strategy, Total Force Fitness initiative, and Military Health System’s Quadruple Aim strategy, highlighting their similarities.

“Each model takes a holistic approach to readiness and prevention and represents a paradigm shift from a ‘sick-care,’ disease-based model to a health-promotion and prevention model, which emphasizes overall well-being of individuals, families and ultimately, communities,” said Cato.

With the aid of Real Warriors Campaign video clips of commentary from and about providers, family, leadership and peers and their critical roles in helping service members with psychological health concerns, DCoE Resilience and Prevention Directorate Program Managers Cmdr. Susan Jordan (health behaviors and promotion) and Cmdr. Wanda Finch (family and community) introduced well-being strategies and resources offered by DCoE, it’s centers and partners.

From the provider community, Jordan introduced a Real Warriors video clip featuring Staff Sgt. Megan Krause acknowledging she found the help she needed exactly when she needed it from a Department of Veterans Affairs hospital. She mentioned the Patient Centered Medical Home model that emphasizes continuous, integrated health care and brings in access to behavioral health care at the primary care level, and the Tricare website for healthy living tips.

With another Real Warriors video clip, Finch highlighted the role of family in achieving well-being and resources that support the family unit. In addition to the campaign, she identified helpful Defense Department programs like Joint Family Support Assistance Program, Military OneSource and Joining Forces Initiative.

Video clips on leadership and peer influence, also from Real Warriors video profiles, supported the view that often they are the first to notice changes in a struggling service member. Finch noted some strategies leaders should be aware of for promoting well-being in their service members:

  • simplify choices and minimize exposure to situations that require a high degree of self-control for service members experiencing psychological health concerns
  • focus on sleep
  • encourage feelings of gratitude through considering reasons for being thankful
  • create opportunities for helping others
  • encourage constructive thinking, recognize successes and take time to listen

Finch also identified resources that help empower individuals in their own care, a supporting theme of the conference. Some mentioned were afterdeployment.org; mobile apps from the National Center of Telehealth and Technology like the Mood Tracker; inTransition; DCoE Outreach Center; and Military Kids Connect.

Bates put a fine point on the benefits of leveraging technology for increased well-being in the military, commenting that with tighter budgets and a different world with social networking, technology affords the opportunity and thus the obligation to reach people with health and prevention resources where they live and learn.

MHS Conference Day Three: Training, Families and Voices of Wounded Warriors


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