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New Army Wellness Center opened at Fort Drum Thursday is one of few in Army

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FORT DRUM — A new million-dollar Army Wellness Center on post will feature equipment to help soldiers and their families develop ways to improve their health.

“As a safety professional, I know how hard it is to measure prevention. It will be difficult to measure the value of the wellness center in dollars, but I know that we’ll see the benefits in our community,” said Col. Matthew Mattner, head of the post’s Medical Department Activity, or MEDDAC. “We’ll see changes in healthier behaviors. We’ll see a decrease in demand for health care to treat preventable injuries and diseases.”

The 5,000-square-foot center, which opened Thursday afternoon, is one of only 12 across the service. The Army is planning to increase the number of centers to 38 in the next few years. The centers, which serve as a complement to primary health care, will be standardized so soldiers can use them as they transfer across installations.

The center, open to soldiers, families, military retirees and Department of the Army civilians, focuses on health assessment reviews, physical fitness, nutrition and stress management, along with general wellness and tobacco education.

Brig. Gen. Barbara R. Holcomb, Army Forces Command surgeon, said many soldiers are given advice about making healthier choices to lose weight or stop smoking, but haven’t been given the right resources to do so.

“It gives us those tools to learn how to change those behaviors,” she said.

The cost of changing the former dining facility of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team into the new center was about $1 million, and the center has about $250,000 in new equipment, some of which cannot be found anywhere else in the region. The facility, which took about six months to update, was paid for by the Army’s Public Health Command.

The centers are being backed as a part of the Army’s Ready and Resilient Campaign, a program that has received increased attention in recent months, including a visit to post from Gen. John F. Campbell, the Army’s vice chief of staff.

Patients can refer themselves to the facility, or can be referred by their command or health-care provider. Information from physical tests for patients can be transferred to other providers through the Army’s health-care database.

“It’s a coordinated health-care effort we have here,” said Col. John T. Groves, deputy commander of nursing for the post’s MEDDAC.

Among the featured technology in the center is the Bod Pod, a system that evaluates body fat composition through air displacement instead of by ultrasound. It was said during the event that the nearest facility using the machine was in Buffalo.

“A lot of people haven’t seen something like this before,” said Christopher M. Ramie, the center’s director. He added that it “looks like a spaceship.”

Other technologies will gauge patients’ heart rates during various stress reduction tests, providing patients quantifiable data on which techniques are most effective for them during behavioral health treatment, or gauge their performance while moving on a treadmill.

The center also will host classes on topics such as tobacco cessation and increasing metabolism.

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