CFB Halifax part of CAF-wide health and wellness initiative

Group discussion on CAF Total Health and Wellness Strategy
Service providers from across CFB Halifax met for a day of group discussions as part of an ongoing analysis of the Canadian Armed Forces Total Health and Wellness Strategy on July 9. Photo: Ryan Melanson, Trident Staff

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By Ryan Melanson, Trident Staff

The health and wellness of personnel is a crucial factor in having operationally ready units and effective support staff across National Defence. Canada’s Defence Policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged, dedicates nearly $200 million in funds to creating a Total Health and Wellness Strategy (THWS) in support of Defence Team members.

Consultations are now underway at bases and wings across the country with health and wellness service providers, end users and other stakeholders. “We’re going across the country to gather information for our new Total Health and Wellness Strategy,” said Major Edie Knight, a Strategic Analyst with Director Military Personnel Policy & Strategy Integration, who led sessions in Halifax on July 9 and 10 along with Noemi Sincennes Labrecque with ADM(HR-Civ).

“This will be an overarching strategy, and it’s not going to replace anything already existing, because there are a lot of good initiatives out there already. We’re looking to identify gaps and for better integration and coordination.” – Major Edie Knight

Broad goals are to develop a strategy that expands beyond traditional health-care models to include promotion, prevention, treatment and support, with a focus on supporting military families and fostering a culture of healthy behaviour. In Halifax, as in other locations, this started by taking stock of the various health and wellness programs and initiatives that already exist on base

“We started by identifying the things that are going well with regard to health and wellness, and then we got into the problems and areas that need improvement,” Maj Knight said about the session. “To end the day, we talked about some possible solutions and what they might look like,”

The small group sessions involved open and honest discussions, and participants didn’t shy away from issues and stress points. In Halifax, these included high workloads with a lack of resources, which can lead to high stress levels, as well as possible impacts of the coming closure of one of the base fitness facilities, among others topics.

“We’re learning forward on some of these issues already with great initiatives in Halifax, but it’s not perfect, and this is going to help us identify seams and gaps and find out where we can make improvements,” said CFB Halifax Base Commander Captain (Navy) Paul Forget. “CFB Halifax is the largest base in Canada, so I think we have some unique perspectives and insights to contribute.”

He noted that members of the Base Command Team have previously been open about their struggles with addiction and mental health issues like depression or anxiety, opening the doors to important conversations. “The mental health aspect hits home for many of our sailors and Defence family, and that’s just one aspect of our total health and wellness, so there’s a lot to discuss here and that’s why we’ve gathered these professionals to do it.”

Sessions on July 9 included military and civilian service providers from Canadian Forces Health Services (Atlantic), Health Promotions, Personnel Support Programs (PSP) Fitness and Sports, the Halifax & Region Military Family Resource Centre (MFRC), and others groups, while the second day of discussions focused on those who tend to be on the receiving end of services. Topics open to discussion included everything from physical, mental and spiritual health in the workplace, including the impact of family life and financial stress on the workforce, to practical issues like ergonomic assessments and the safety of physical work environments.

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