Promoting Healthy Living: Assessing More Effects
Healthy eating, regular exercise and maintaining a healthy body weight would prevent 500,000 premature U.S. deaths per year. Today, less than 5% of Americans achieve all three of these health goals. Like most Americans, many fire fighters do not get enough physical activity or eat a healthy diet.
In 1998 the National Institutes of Health funded 14 studies to assess new ways to promote healthy lifestyles. The original PHLAME study was one of those programs, and it examined different ways to promote health among fire fighters. More than 600 fire fighters from Oregon and SW Washington participated. Fire stations were placed in one of three groups: 1) testing and results only, 2) testing and individual health coaching using Motivational Interviewing and 3) testing and a Team program, with each shift at a station being its own team.
There were four health goals:
- Increase physical activity to at least 30 minutes each day.
- Reduce saturated and trans-fat intake.
- Increase servings of fruits and vegetables to at least five per day.
- Improve energy balance and normalize body weight.
Both the coaching and Team program resulted in significantly better eating and exercise habits and lower body weights than the control group. During PHLAME, the average annual cost of injuries and work related health problems decreased approximately $1000/fire fighter. Fire fighters were healthier, felt better and experienced fewer injuries and illnesses. Click on Research Findings to read more about the results.
PHLAME team program
Both the coaching and Team program resulted in positive changes. However the Team program was much more cost effective. The Team program is an easy to use, 12, one-hour session program that a shift or work group does while at work once a week for three months. One team member leads the sessions using scripted lesson plans, and team members participate in activities concerning nutrition, exercise, energy balance and other topics that the team selects. All receive Fire Fighter Health & Fitness Guide designed specifically for fire fighters. Ongoing 'positive peer pressure helps promote and maintain team members' healthy eating and regular exercise. Watch a video about the Team program by on the PHLAME promotional video link.
PHLAME II continued research
Because PHLAME improved the health of fire fighters, the National Cancer Institutefunded PHLAME II to test the PHLAME fire fighters for four more years to learn more about why and how people change their health habits and study the economic impact of the program. PHLAME II is part of the Health Maintenance Consortium. We found that PHLAME seemed to change the culture of fire departments. Although the original PHLAME program only lasted two years, the improvements kept increasing each year. Read more about the long-term outcomes of the PHLAME Team program in the Research Findings.
The PHLAME TEAM program dissemination - moving science to service
The PHLAME dissemination study was funded in 2009 as one of the economic recovery challenge grants through the National Institute of Nursing Research of the National Institutes of Health. We will be providing the proven-effective PHLAME program to 12 fire departments in the Pacific NW. This study will define a roadmap for the real-world implementation and use of an effective worksite wellness program and understand the factors that affect each phase of that process. This work should have immediate economic benefits for the study site communities, by improving the health of fire fighters and reducing costs due to early retirement, overtime, illness and injury. The information learned can be applied to worksite wellness programs in fire departments across the US and employee wellness programs in other settings. Please see our 'FAQs' link to the right of this page for more information on disseminating the Team program.