EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska - In an effort to improve overall wellness and prevent disease, Air Force installations have made the Health and Wellness Center a focal point.
The HAWC provides education and services tailored to the unique Alaskan environment to both improve community awareness and promote healthy lifestyle choices for the total force and their families.
“If you think about health, fitness or nutrition, you can think about it on a continuum. You’ve got disease, and high-end athletes and Olympic athletes, and then you have everything in between,” said Janneane Moody, 354th Medial Operations Squadron HAWC health promotion manager. “Most of us are in between, but we all can move up the continuum, and that’s what we are here to help people do.”
To help Icemen improve their health, the HAWC offers a variety of programs and resources, including a registered dietician and exercise physiologist, physical training leader classes, fitness prescriptions, tobacco cessation, nutrition counseling and classes to help adapt to the Alaskan environment.
Icemen have to acclimate to conditions not seen normally in the lower 48 states. The endless sunlight during the summer and lack of sunlight during the winter can potentially pose challenges to some members of the iceman team.
“We have ‘Sleepless in Alaska’ and [seasonal affective disorder] classes. The SAD class is offered during the wintertime when it is dark and then ‘Sleepless in Alaska’ is offered during the spring and summer,” said Senior Airman Martina Nielsen, 354th MDOS HAWC office manager. “We also have “Happy Lights” and a lot of people use them during the wintertime.”
“Sleepless in Alaska” classes educate icemen about sleep physiology, misconceptions, biological clock and tips on how to get back on schedule.
The SAD classes teach icemen signs and symptoms, prevention techniques, and proper use of “Happy Lights,” which emulate natural daylight to improve mood and an overall sense of wellbeing.
“Seasonal affective disorder is actually a form of depression. It’s a really low form of depression, which a lot of people don’t understand,” said Moody. “We offer the SAD classes for people to learn about it, especially if they are new to the base and they never lived in a place where it has been a problem.”
Moody mentioned the biggest misnomer people have about SAD is there is no way to prevent it, and if during their first winter experience it did not affect them, it will not affect them later. Moody went on to explain, however, that signs and symptoms may not be evident until the third or the fourth year, while others never have a SAD experience.
The HAWC encompasses not only ways to help Icemen cope with the uncommon Alaskan environment, but also give them opportunities to speak one-on-one with a dietician and exercise physiologist.
“A lot of people don’t realize we have a registered dietician available, who offers top-of-the-line nutrition information, and a degreed and certified exercise physiologist,” said Moody. “In the outside world, to go and pay for those services, it would be a ludicrous amount of money and it is a resource the base has at their fingertips for absolutely free.”
Group classes are also available. The “Living Lean” class adds another tool to maintain or achieve a healthy weight. Attendees receive an exercise plan from an exercise physiologist and healthy food plan taught by a dietitian, providing workout and eating strategies to sustain a healthy blood glucose level.
All classes and services provided by the HAWC are free and open to active duty, military dependents, retirees, reservists and Department of Defense civilians.
The HAWC also has an extensive lending library that includes videos, books and audio cassettes, and offers information on stress management, men and women’s health, diabetes, blood pressure, and cholesterol.
For more information, contact the HAWC at 377-WELL (9355).