MOVE program aims to save vets’ lives


Obesity and diabetes are major health problems veterans now face
by Stephanie Heinatz

FORT MONROE — When World War II and Korean War veterans returned home from the front lines, they were greeted with a new American trend: fast food.

Ding Dongs and the Ho Ho, French fries and burgers.

“They were eating their way into a dietary coffin,” R. James Nicholson, the secretary of Veterans Affairs, said at a Fort Monroe press conference Friday.

The result: Diabetes is affecting military veterans at an alarming rate. While adult onset diabetes has been declared a symptom of the Agent Orange used in the Vietnam War, it can also be caused by obesity.

Roughly 7 percent of Americans – about 20.8 million people – have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association…


Of the people receiving care from the Department of Veterans Affairs, 20 percent have the disease.

Nicholson wants to combat it to not only save lives, but also money for a health care system whose biggest challenge, he said, is maintaining enough resources to handle an influx of patients who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Diabetes can lead to higher pharmacy costs, increased doctor visits and an overall deterioration of health.

Nicholson was in town this week for the 20th National Veterans Golden Age Games, but he also used the visit to promote a new program aimed at helping reduce what he calls an epidemic.

“The consequences of not keeping weight in check are severe,” Nicholson said.

That’s where the MOVE program, which stands for “Managing Obesity for Veterans Everywhere,” comes in.

It works like this:

Veterans receiving care at a VA facility complete an online questionnaire – at www.move – about their eating and exercise habits.

They then receive a personal report on their health, along with suggestions on how to change their lifestyle to lose weight.

“MOVE is about health, not looks,” Nicholson said. “It’s literally to save the lives of veterans.”

Medical personnel at VA facilities should then keep tabs and follow up with the veterans expressing a desire to change their lifestyle.

While Nicholson said there isn’t any additional cost to operate the program – it was folded into budgets already in place – it will mean additional work for VA employees, a spokesman said. But over the long run, if the number of vets with diabetes decreases, it could save the system money.

“We decreased smoking when people thought we couldn’t do it,” Nicholson said. “Just like (the veterans) won other fights, together we can make a difference.”


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