Obesity is hindering the armed services’ efforts to recruit and retain healthy personnel, according to a Congressional Research Service (CRS) report published Dec. 22. The white paper noted that 19 percent of all U.S. adults today could not meet military weight standards. Moreover, obesity costs the Defense Department more than $1.2 billion annually – much of the cost going towards obesity-related health care and lower productivity.
“The high and rising prevalence of obesity in the United States represents a substantial obstacle for military recruitment,” the CRS paper stated. “Obesity is one of the leading medical reasons that young adults are disqualified from joining the military, and has been an issue for military recruitment for over 30 years.”
The report cited a scientific study that showed 80 percent of all recruits who worked to lose enough weight, or who were granted waivers to gain entry into the armed forces, saw their careers end before the end their first enlistment terms. These service members more often than not left the military after the government incurred the expenses associated with training them, the report stated.
Its authors noted that while obesity is a national concern that extends beyond the scope of military readiness, it considered a preventable disease. Embracement of widely published recommendations regarding diet, exercise and social support could enable the armed forces – and the nation they serve – to come to grips with the problem.