The Department of Defense (DOD) launched a new preventative health care program, Healthy Choices for Life, (HC) according to a release issued by the Air Force in late January. The program focuses on persuading people to lose weight, quit smoking and stop binge drinking.

“[The purpose of the program is] to put information in the hands of individual service members and family members so that they can change their behavior,” Dr. William Winkenwerder Jr., the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, said in the report. Tricare, the military health system whose beneficiaries include 9.1 million uniformed service members and families, retirees, survivors and their family members, manages the program that is envisioned as a DOD-managed program for all armed services.

The HC Web site is an information-based site that includes the results of the Survey of Health-Related Behaviors, guidance on healthy behaviors by Winkenwerder and a listing of other Web sites with health-related content.

Although men and women in uniform have traditionally been seen as models of health and fitness, the program was necessary because “the DOD knows that the Military Health System acknowledges that the incidence of non-healthy behaviors is at least as likely among the military population as among American civilians. Indeed, a recent survey reports that military children have a higher incidence of overweight and obesity than do children in the general American population. And, for the first time in 20 years, uniformed service members are smoking more,” according to the HC Web site.

About $13 million has been budgeted to fund pilot programs such as this one over the next few years. Other pilot programs under consideration are toll-free smoking and drinking cessation phone lines and Web sites touting healthier lifestyles, Winkenwerder said in the report.