By Alec Connor, Co-op Student with the Guard –
When thinking about operational readiness in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), considerations such as equipment, intelligence, and strategy might first come to mind. What often gets left out of such conversations, however, is the health and wellbeing (in every aspect) of the personnel themselves, and this is where PSP Ottawa Health Promotion comes in.
For over 15 years, Health Promotion has worked to help CAF members and their families improve their overall health by focusing on four core areas; nutritional wellness, addiction awareness, social wellness, and injury prevention and active living, which aligns with new priorities outlined in Canada’s new Defence policy: Strong, Secure, Engaged (SSE). Health Promotion does this by providing evidence-based programs and initiatives tailored by Subject-Matter Experts (SMEs) that help participants lead better lives. Unlike other initiatives, the Health Promotion programs do not simply offer information; they also empower participants by providing skills and tools they can use to improve their own health.
The professionals at Health Promotion ensure that CAF personnel and their family members are holistically healthy, not just physically healthy. It’s important to remember that issues such as mental health and a healthy workplace culture are integral to a successful and happy workforce. With popular programs such as Mental Fitness and Suicide Awareness, Alcohol, Other Drugs, Gambling, and Gaming Awareness, and Managing Angry Moments, the Health Promotion team ensures that CAF personnel and supervisors are well equipped to deal with issues, even those outside of work which can harm a person’s wellbeing and effectiveness. Many of these topics can be sensitive or stressful to discuss, which is why Health Promotion facilitators are extensively trained and skilled in having difficult conversations, handling strong emotions, and facilitating behaviour change.
It’s clear that these methods work. One participant in Managing Angry Moments explained how this program “has not only helped my anger problems but has changed my life. When I get angry, I am now able to stop, analyze my emotions and choose my reaction. Thank you so much for making this course available, I think everyone should take it.” Participants in other sessions stressed their effectiveness and utility across the board.
Health Promotion doesn’t only have things to offer for individual members, as it is also a resource for the CAF chain of command, helping them build a healthy and resilient unit. This can range from assuring that those under their command are able to communicate efficiently and effectively, to making sure that personal and family life of personnel doesn’t affect their job performance in a negative way, all delivered in customizable formats including briefings and full-length workshops.
Much like more traditional units in the military, such as regiments or HMC ships, broader organizations at DND also need a vibrant esprit de corps to function well. To facilitate this, Health Promotion runs a number of initiatives such as the Pedometer Challenge and awareness campaigns such as Nutrition Month and Addiction Awareness Month, that keep health at the top of mind for members of the Defence Team while providing an opportunity for a bit of fun.
At its heart, the CAF needs its members to be ready to take part in operations across the globe and here at home on a moment’s notice. PSP Ottawa Health Promotion makes sure that personnel are fully operationally ready in both body and mind.
Photo: Courtesy of CAFConnection
This post is also available in: Français (French)