KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - In early 2013, the Army Medical Command introduced the new Performance Triad Pilot Program. The program is a study designed to measure a person’s health based on three pillars of study: nutrition, activity, and sleep.
The Army is looking to implement a program like this as part of its focus on comprehensive soldier and family fitness. A handful of units were chosen to take part in the pilot program, and according to the 82nd Sustainment Brigade, Central Command Recovery Element (CMRE), they are the only unit being tested that is currently deployed to Afghanistan.
“We were initially selected to test the program with a few other units back in the U.S. but upon further analysis we thought our upcoming deployment would be an even better way to further test the program,” said Col. Mark Collins commander of the 82nd SB CMRE.
“The goal of the program is to make participants realize they are responsible for their own health and need to take charge,” said Maj. Christine Landry, a physician assistant and brigade surgeon for the 82nd SB CMRE.
The pilot program will use a tiered prevention strategy to ensure the Army family receives the education and/or services to help them maintain, improve or restore health.
The program involves wearing a small electronic wristband, which monitors the participants’ activity, and also the amount and quality of sleep they get. Through an interactive online website participants can upload their data and input their nutrition habits. The site lets you set goals and monitor your progress, users also have an option to compare and see the results of their friends.
“When you sign up for the program you can choose to monitor your own statistics as well as friends, which holds you accountable for your fitness and also lets others hold you accountable,” said Collins.
The study is focused on getting the participant active in managing their own health letting the participant see firsthand where they stand.
“A fitness tool is only as good as the person who is willing to use it, which is why this device is so great because it’s highly interactive,” said Landry.
The program monitors activity by measuring the amount of steps taken in a day, 10,000 being the default goal. Allowing the participant to see other people’s results and manually change their step goal spurs competition encouraging more activity leading to better health.
"When I first started wearing the device, I was checking it every 10 minutes to see my progress, but after a while, you start to realize what constitutes sufficient activity for a day,” said Capt. Curtis Gibbs, the supply and services officer in charge for the 82nd SB CMRE.
Through its sleep monitoring capabilities the device has made many soldiers come to a realization about the actual amount of sleep they are getting.
“As a leader, I find the tool to be very valuable because leaders who get enough sleep make better decisions than those who don’t,” said Collins.
“Mental toughness is very important in a deployed environment and is directly impacted by the amount of sleep you get,” said Landry.
Soldiers using the program, which was designed for use in the U.S., have had to overcome some challenges to effectively implement it here.
“There are a few challenges here with the program. Probably the biggest one is that the nutrition is tough to monitor, because there are no nutritional labels at the dining facilities for what you eat,” said Staff Sgt. Shawn Campbell, a transportation management coordinator for the 82nd SB CMRE.
Campbell, a Miami native, stated it was difficult to find the time in a deployed environment to look up and input all the nutritional information for the day.
“Working in classified environments, you have to take the device on and off a lot because it is not allowed inside. This becomes a pain but, with a little effort, is manageable,” said Gibbs.
The results so far for the 82nd SB CMRE have been very positive despite the challenges the soldiers are facing while deployed.
“The program is going great. It reminds soldiers that fitness is a 24-hour-a-day process,” said Landry.
The Army will encourage the Army family to incorporate the healthy behaviors of activity, nutrition and sleep into their daily lives. Army Medicine will initiate a comprehensive education and awareness campaign in phases to provide Performance Triad educational materials to soldiers, family members, retirees and civilians.
A Performance Triad Communication Toolkit for Leaders is also being developed to serve as a comprehensive resource for information for Army leaders about the Performance Triad Pilot Program. The program's success will be measured by improvements in health and the reduction of disease and injury for the Army family.