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NEWS | Jan. 29, 2021

Civilian Challenge pilot program designed to kick-start wellness journey

By Lori A. Bultman 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

In an effort to enhance wellness opportunities for Department of Defense civilian employees on Joint Base San Antonio, the JBSA-Fort Sam Houston Army Wellness Center is now offering a motivational Civilian Challenge to a small group of U.S. Army North civil service personnel as part of a pilot test.   

“While soldiers must integrate physical fitness and total wellness into their everyday lives because their position demands it, civilian workers are not required to meet those same standards for their positions,” said Patrice Hickey, director of the Army Wellness Center at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston. “As such, healthy habits may be difficult or intimidating for them to undertake alone.” 

The Army Wellness Center Civilian Challenge, or AWC3, is designed to help walk members of the DOD civilian workforce through a 12-week wellness journey by focusing on activity, nutrition, mindfulness, and sleep, Hickey said.   

"We highlight and provide tools and activities, such as classes led by health education specialists, that are designed to offer improvement in both mental and physical health and wellness,” she said. “We also offer personalized assessments to meet the more individual needs of our civilian workforce.” 

The challenge operates on a point-based system that allows participants to track progress quickly and easily on the Challenge Runner website.   

“Points are earned by attending classes, completing wellness assessments, logging physical activity, and participating in other challenges sent to participants through the weekly challenge email,” Hickey said. “The challenge website shows the visual impact that the holistic health program has on their wellness and lifestyle changes. Comparing pre- and post-measurements will also provide participants with quantifiable results of their lifestyle changes.” 

Hickey said a healthy workforce is a productive workforce. 

“Behavioral risk factors lead to devastating effects on the Army and DOD communities and can lead to chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer,” she said. "The Army Wellness Center’s mission has always been to support the health of our community, and with this responsibility in mind, we set our goal to also prioritize the health and wellbeing of our civilian workforce.” 

Even though the Army Wellness Center beneficiaries include active-duty service members, their spouses, dependents over 18, retirees, and DOD employees, historically, services have not been well utilized by the civilian beneficiary population. This is why, Hickey said, they designed the new program for DOD civilian employees, although it is not open to all just yet.  

“While in the pilot stage, the program is being offered to a small sub-set of JBSA federal civilian employees,” she said, thanking U.S. Army North headquarters staff members for participating in the initial pilot.   

"We are excited to be a part of the testing and development of this new wellness program,” said Cheryl Wallek, family programs manager for U.S. Army North. “Over two dozen civilian teammates have jumped at the opportunity to improve their own wellness and are already providing feedback to refine the program for rollout to a wider audience."  

Jeff Carter, evaluation analyst at U.S. Army North, agrees that the program may help civilian employees lead healthier lives.   

“It gives civilian employees the resources needed to get and stay healthier," he said. “Healthy employees spend more time at work and less time at medical appointments.”  

Hickey hopes to see AWC3 offered to the wider JBSA civilian population after the pilot outcomes and recommendations have been reviewed.