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Command receives Gold Star Recognition for tobacco-free policies, practices

By Naval Hospital Jacksonville, Fla., Public Affairs | Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany | April 1, 2015


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Naval Hospital Jacksonville was awarded the first Ambassadors for Health Gold Star recognition for achieving the highest national standards for a tobacco-free workplace during a ceremony March 31 with Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Dr. Jonathan Woodson and Prevention Partners. 

"Ensuring the health of our nation's heroes — past and present — and their families is not just an honor, it is our responsibility,” Woodson said. “This care does not stop at the battlefield, it continues in facilities like Naval Hospital Jacksonville where disease prevention and wellness must be prioritized to ensure our fighting force is healthy and able to support operational contingencies.

  "Through programs like the Healthy Base Initiative and Ambassadors for Health, and through the long-term strategy Operation Live Well, we support healthy lifestyles for not only our warfighters and their families, but the staff who care for them,” he added. “As an Ambassador for Health Gold Star site, Naval Hospital Jacksonville is doing its part to support our national health strategy by setting the standard for workplace health." 

The recognition underscores NH Jacksonville’s ongoing commitment to encourage healthy lifestyles and choices for its more than 70,000 enrolled patients and 2,300 staff throughout Florida and Georgia. Naval Branch Health Clinic Albany is one of NH Jacksonville’s health care facilities located across Florida and Georgia. 

NH Jacksonville’s participation in Ambassadors for Health highlights the desire to create a healthier workplace and serve as wellness model for the rest of the Department of Defense community.  

In addition to building a culture of health, improving nutrition and increasing physical activity for hospital staff, a key topic area for improvement in the initiative is the area of tobacco-free policies and cessation systems for U.S. military hospital staff and patients. Tobacco utilization in the military adds more than $1.6 billion annually to the DOD’s budget — in health care costs and lost work days.

The Healthy Base Initiative and Ambassadors for Health are some of the ways the DOD is helping address these costs — by focusing on encouraging good nutrition, active lifestyles and tobacco-free living. 

According to World Health Organization, tobacco kills up to half of its users — nearly 6 million people each year. More than 5 million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use, while more than 600,000 are the result of non-smokers being exposed via second-hand smoke.

Smokers make 8–11 quit attempts before successfully quitting, and most who try to quit unaided, or without the use of medication and cessation counseling, fail. NH Jacksonville is providing the most evidence based resources and support to its patients and employees to help them quit. Run by its Wellness Center (hospital) and Health Promotions (Naval Branch Health Clinics such as NBHC Albany), the comprehensive program focuses on the nature of nicotine addiction and strategies for behavior modification and stress management.  

“We congratulate Naval Hospital Jacksonville on its comprehensive tobacco-free efforts, which have been second to none,” Annie Thornhill, Strategic Alliances Director at Prevention Partners, said — a nonprofit organization focused on building healthier places to change lives and partner with the Department of Defense in leading the Ambassadors for Health initiative. “The Ambassadors for Health Gold Star is proof that they are an elite military hospital doing the right things to help employees live tobacco-free lifestyles.” 

NH Jacksonville became the first Ambassadors for Health hospital to receive the Gold Star recognition, by scoring an “A” on its latest tobacco-free evaluation — one of four evaluations conducted every six months to assess the culture of wellness, physical activity, nutrition and tobacco environment. NH Jacksonville is on its way to creating an environment where its employees, at its six facilities, are supported in eating well, being physically fit and being tobacco-free. 

“We are truly honored by this recognition as it signals we are providing the highest national standard for tobacco-free practices and policies,” Capt. John Le Favour, NH Jacksonville commanding officer, said. “We continue to push forward in our efforts to improve the health care environment and culture of wellness for our patients, their families and our staff.”  

The HBI — a demonstration program to inform DOD’s long term strategy, Operation Live Well —was launched in 2013, at 14 sites, to promote a healthy and fit force, which is essential to national security. It increases awareness of the devastating impact of tobacco use, sedentary lifestyles and poor nutritional choices.

Ambassadors for Health, one of many pilot programs within HBI, started in 2014 to specifically focus on encouraging healthy lifestyles for the health care providers and military treatment facility staff, who care for service members and their families, and serve as a wellness model for the rest of the DOD community. Other Ambassadors for Health facilities include hospitals and health care centers at Fort Belvoir, Va.; Fort Meade, Md.; Submarine Base Groton, Conn.; Fort Bragg, N.C.; and Yokota Airbase, Japan.

From the over-arching Operation Live Well, to medical treatment facility programs like Ambassadors for Health, making healthy living the easy choice for service members and their families is the ultimate goal. NH Jacksonville is in the process of implementing additional campus improvements for its patients and staff, to include: a weekly farmers market, walking paths and healthier dining choices.