FALLS CHURCH, Va. --
The Air Force Medical Support Agency health promotions team has employed a new tool to promote healthy food to Airmen. Medically ready Airmen are vital to combatant commanders, and nutrition is a significant part of that mission.
The Military Nutrition Environment Assessment tool, or m-NEAT 2.0, assesses the entire nutrition environment at an installation. This assessment helps drive actionable and targeted interventions to allow Airmen to make healthier choices.
“What makes m-NEAT 2.0 different from other assessment tools is that we take a systems approach,” said Linda Granado, developer of the m-NEAT 2.0 training program at AFMSA. “This tool focuses not only on availability of healthy food choices, but also the many other factors that impact what Airmen decide to eat.”
These additional factors include things like choice architecture, which refers to the accessibility of healthy options, the presentation of those choices, and the proximity or placement of healthy foods. The tool also takes into consideration health messaging and food labeling, food policy, pricing strategies or incentives, and community outreach efforts.
“These are the things that base personnel can use to have better control and to help guide Airmen to make better nutritional choices,” said Tammy Lindberg, Health Promotion Nutrition program manager at AFMOA.
The m-NEAT 2.0 tool will ultimately be used to target interventions, identify specific needs at the installation level, and provide an opportunity to improve the nutrition environment that would lead to healthier Airmen.
“In the past, we would take an assessment tool and get a benchmark to compare with other bases,” said Lt. Col. Saunya Bright, chief, Health Promotion Nutrition with AFMSA. “The problem was we didn’t go back to target interventions to help improve what options were available throughout the entire base. We didn’t have a standardized effort. With m-NEAT 2.0, we address that gap.”
According to Lindberg, the goal of m-NEAT 2.0 is to have an impact on Airmen readiness as it drives base-level decisions and changes.
Currently, each installation has had the opportunity to use the m-NEAT 2.0 tool for the first time this year and submit their assessment and action plans to AFMSA.
“We are going to get their feedback on the tool and ensure it is really measuring what we want it to measure,” said Bright. “We are also working with the Army and Navy to really validate and see if the score is weighted correctly.”
As an assessment tool that focuses on outcomes, m-NEAT 2.0 makes it easier for installations to make the necessary changes to impact the nutrition environment for its Airmen.
“It’s an exciting time to be working in the nutrition arena in the Air Force,” said Lindberg. “With m-NEAT 2.0, commanders and stakeholders work together to really find ways to change the nutrition environment that make it easier for Airmen to make healthier choices. I hope commanders continue being that voice that watches out for their Airmen, ensuring they are fit to fight.”