Seeking a Healthier Military Population

The Defense Department spends more than $50 billion annually on the military health system, said Jonathan Woodson, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, on Monday. “The military communities are microcosms of broader American society,” he explained during a March 18 media roundtable. As such, they sometimes make poor nutritional choices, gain weight, develop diabetes, and face other health-related concerns, he said. Service members are also using tobacco products at a higher rate than their civilian peers, said Woodson. “We need to employ every tool in our arsenal to improve individual resiliency [and] raise awareness of the simple steps that our communities can take to improve their health,” he said. Woodson estimated that it costs DOD some $1.4 billion annually to treat the complications of tobacco and obesity across its ranks. “If we build a healthier population, we actually save money and have resources for other initiatives,” he said.