NACDD is working closely with State Health Departments, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Defense Health Agency (DHA) to help improve strategic communication and collaboration to address the upstream factors of chronic disease such as tobacco use, physical activity, and nutrition for our nation’s 1.38 million military service members and their families.

Read our NACDD Healthy Military Communities Fact Sheet (2021).

A fit and healthy fighting force is the foundation of a strong national defense. In the United States, poor health, obesity, lack of physical fitness, and tobacco use pose a growing threat to the Department of Defense’s (DoD) four “Rs”: recruitment, retention, readiness, and resilience. A few observations underscore the scale of the challenge:

  • Recruitment – In 2010, 27 percent of recruits did not qualify for the military due to height/weight standards. By 2030, 64 percent of potential recruits will not qualify due to their weight.
  • Retention – Failure to meet weight standards is a leading cause of involuntary separation from the military. Additionally, obesity in the civilian community is limiting DoD’s ability to recruit qualified personnel.
  • Readiness and Resilience – More service members were evacuated from Iraq and Afghanistan for serious sprains and fractures than for combat injuries; “overweight or less-fit young men and women are at a higher risk for these injuries.”
  • Fiscal Impact – Treating the effects of obesity and tobacco-related illnesses costs DoD over $3 billion annually.

Efforts such as the Healthy Base Initiative (HBI) found that the DoD and the Services tend to build their own programs, often under the assumption that outside organizations would not understand the military or offer programs that meet the military’s needs. However, most of the challenges that the DoD and its Service members face are also present in the civilian (i.e., community) sector.

Contact the Military Portfolio Lead

Healthy Military Communities is a program of the Center for Advancing Healthy Communities. Contact Catherine McCann at to learn more about the NACDD military portfolio of work and how you can partner with NACDD.

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