New Task Force Established to Spread Awareness of Nutrition and Lifestyle

A group of people exercising. It looks as though they are throwing punches.

By Zachary Willis

You’ve heard about PPE (personal protective equipment), but have you considered PPL or PPN? A personal protective lifestyle (PPL) and nutrition (PPN) could be your key to resiliency in the face of COVID-19. The Uniformed Services University’s Consortium for Health and Military Performance (CHAMP) is working with a new task force within the Military Health System to disseminate Total Force Fitness solutions for our military community members to stay strong during the pandemic.  

The task force was formed as a gathering of like-minded individuals who all understood that lifestyle-related chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular diseases could be factors that would create further complications to COVID-19. Together, they want to enhance the resilience of military personnel and families, and raise awareness about other crucial ways to protect yourself and others through nutrition and lifestyle.

“Not only has COVID-19 increased the urgency of addressing our nation’s epidemics of chronic disease and obesity,” says Army Capt. (Dr.) Bryan Stepanenko, an Army family physician at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and a member of the task force, “it is challenging us as a community to learn, innovate, implement, and scale interventions faster than we have ever done before.”

The task force is putting its focus into disseminating two of its most digestible messages of advice in the form of bite-sized acronyms: PPL and PPN, activities of daily living and food and nutrients that enhance immune and metabolic resiliency to reverse disease and optimize performance.

ailors and Marines aboard amphibious assault ship USS Boxer run during a Labor Day 5K held on the flight deck during exercise Eager Lion in the Red Sea, Sept. 1, 2019.
Sailors and Marines aboard amphibious assault ship USS Boxer run during a Labor Day 5K held on the flight deck
during exercise Eager Lion in the Red Sea, Sept. 1, 2019. A January 2019 DoD report showed that military obesity
doubled from 2015-2018, necessitating lifestyle and nutrition changes.  (Photo: John Luke McGovern/U.S. Navy)

“PPN and PPL are opportunities for everyone - despite their professional lane or position in the community,” Stepanenko continues, “to scale a simple message: the things that you do, think, and eat will determine how you meet and overcome adversity - whatever the threat.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 45% of U.S. adults are at risk for complications from COVID-19 because of lifestyle-related diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension. In conjunction with that, a Department of Defense Health of the Force Report from January of 2019 raised alarm that the U.S. military rate of obesity doubled between 2015 and 2018 from 7.8% to 17.4%.

“The epidemic of lifestyle-related chronic diseases in the U.S. is making us vulnerable to severe complications associated with COVID-19,” says retired Air Force Col. (Dr.) Mylene T. Huynh, adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine and Biometrics at USU, another member of the task force.

However, Huynh believes there is hope in addressing these issues now.

“The good news,” Huynh says, “is that science is showing chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular diseases are reversible through lifestyle change. Addressing nutrition and lifestyle now would build resilience during pandemic and beyond.”

To learn more about the task force’s mission and further understand the necessity of Personal Protective Nutrition and Personal Protective Lifestyle, CHAMP invites you to attend a virtual seminar on Wednesday, August 19 at 1pm. More details about the seminar, including how to register, can be found at this link.

A diagram of CHAMP's Total Force Fitness
Graphic Courtesy of CHAMP