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The Defense Department created Building Healthy Military Communities, a strategic pilot aligned with the larger DOD initiative Total Force Fitness, to enhance military recruitment, retention, readiness and resilience.
BHMC’s objective is to coordinate and integrate DOD, federal, state, regional, tribal and local efforts in support of Total Force Fitness for active-duty and reserve service members living in geographically dispersed areas.
BHMC initiatives enhance protective factors ahead of the point of crisis across eight domains — physical, environmental, medical/dental, nutritional, spiritual, psychological, financial and social. These comprise the TFF framework. TFF views health, wellness and resilience holistically; optimal performance requires a connection among mind, body, spirit, and family and social relationships.
The DOD launched the BHMC pilot in response to Senate Report 114-63, which calls for a pilot that addresses the “enhancement of recruitment, retention, readiness and resilience” of the total force.
Each BHMC pilot state is led by a state coordinator who facilitates connections and awareness in their state among:
- The DOD community
- Nongovernmental organizations
- Community partners
- National, state, local and tribal governments
The BHMC state coordinators build bridges between national, state and local partners to collaborate on how to serve military communities and create a common agenda among stakeholders. These efforts increase a sense of belonging in the community and decrease negative health outcomes for military communities.
BHMC’s state coordinators are members of, or lead, community, state and county public health boards or working groups. In these roles, they articulate and advocate for the military-connected community in local strategic planning and diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. For more information, see Total Force Fitness.
Phases of the pilot
The DOD piloted Phase 1 of BHMC in 2016 in Florida, Indiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico and Oklahoma. These states met the site selection criteria, including a strong commitment from leadership, and the presence of active-duty and reserve service members from multiple services. The sites also vary demographically and geographically.
In late 2021, Phase 2 of BHMC expanded to three additional states: Georgia, South Carolina and Texas.
- Conducted rapid needs assessments and identified strategic objectives
- Identified regional needs, solutions and options to meet DOD priorities
- Developed and implemented state action plans
- Formed strategic relationships with key partners and regional authorities
- Continue implementing state action plans and strengthening/building partnerships
- Leverage innovative data tools and analytics for growth and expansion
- Apply best practices and lessons learned from Phase 1 to three new states
- Establish BHMC as a program of practice to scale nationwide
BHMC Phase 1 Impacts
Phase 1 resulted in the following:
- Community Readiness Open Data Dashboard of all 50 states and territories that highlights service member density and top public health risks. This is available to a variety of national, state and local partners.
- A BHMC Toolkit that includes best practices and recommendations for military service providers to support crucial connections between DOD/other federal agencies and state and local partners that can improve public health outcomes.
- Ask the question: Through federal partnerships, the BHMC team is in the process of adding a question to the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, specifically asking respondents about their military and/or veteran status.
- Epidemiological maps have been built using publicly available data to determine top health risks in each county within pilot states, which has improved the DOD’s ability to accurately forecast and allocate resources.
- Targeted interventions were implemented to help senior-level decision makers better forecast, allocate and provide resources to solve the toughest challenges facing geographically dispersed service members and their families.