In October of 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and the National Guard Bureau (NGB) signed a memorandum of understanding to connect both organizations to the Cooperative Extension System in an effort to increase health initiatives for military families. At the time, Sonny Ramaswamy, NIFA director was quoted stating that, “The men and women who protect this nation should have access to as much information and resources as possible to help preserve the strength and well-being of their families. Members of the military, their spouses, and children can utilize the education and assistance from these programs and universities, before, during, and after deployments to maintain a healthy lifestyle, regardless of their mission or where they are stationed.”
Two years later, there are many new programs across the U.S. which support military families as well as service professionals working within their communities by providing education and employment support, family readiness, and physical, spiritual and behavioral health support. Under this initiative the USDA and NGB want to ensure that these resources and programs are accessible to service members and their families, even those that are geographically dispersed. Out of the collaboration between both organizations and the Cooperative Extension System a new pilot program has developed to achieve this goal, Building Healthy Military Communities (BHMC).
Building Healthy Military Communities is a seven state pilot program which aims to better understand the challenges faced by Service members and their families in accessing resources that may impact force readiness, well-being, and resiliency. The program will operate in Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, Maryland, Indiana, Florida, and Oklahoma. At the beginning of the pilot, the program will perform an environmental scan to determine the assets and needs of each state. Using the results of this scan, BHMC will help each state to build a plan to better serve their service members and families. The ultimate goal of the plan is to validate the process to better serve the geographically dispersed service members and their families. Within this effort, OneOp will assist the seven states in connecting to their respective state cooperative extension systems to leverage their community capacity and to maximize the land grant and extension systems’ capacity to serve as a force multiplier in the family readiness mission area.
The results of the BHMC pilot will also inform the Total Force Fitness Capabilities Based Assessment in order to establish an enduring capability to support wellbeing, readiness, and resiliency in support of remote Active Duty, Reserve and National Guard members and their families.For more information about the Building Healthy Military Communities pilot program, visit: https://www.jointservicessupport.org/Outreach/Index8.aspx