Today, there are over 2.6 million total military personnel in the U.S. Armed Forces and approximately 18.3 million veterans who live and work in communities across our nation. There are an additional 2.5 million family members who serve alongside their service member.

Many opportunities exist for public health chronic disease and health promotion professionals to engage with and serve this population. This toolkit provides information and strategies to help public health professionals build capacity to better serve the military connected. The guide takes readers through a series of steps:

Step 1: Know Your Military Population outlines the structure of the Departments of Defense (DoD) and Veterans Affairs (VA). It provides an overview of military and family demographics and culture, and references to military health data sources. 

Step 2: Learn About Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs Health Agencies and Initiatives introduces the Defense Health Agency (DHA) and Veterans Health Administration, and the military family readiness system. 

Step 3: Find Key Individuals provides information on military stakeholders who may be more receptive to partnering on health promotion efforts. It also provides guidance on preferred communication style. 

Step 4: Get Ideas for Partnership presents examples of previous partnership efforts and offers partnership ideas to influence key health behaviors including physical activity, nutrition, and commercial tobacco use.

As a companion to this guide for State Territorial Health Departments (SHD), NACDD created the Building Healthy Military Communities Toolkit for DoD providers. Share this with the DoD and VA service providers you work with to help them gain a better understanding of public health and how the work of public health supports military recruitment, readiness, and retention.

This resource was created by the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors (NACDD) with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The content provided does not necessarily reflect the official policies of the Department of Health and Human Services, nor does the mention of trade names, commercial practices, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government. 

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