July 10, 2012

The Secret to Successful Health Promotion is....

Although I haven't really talked about it on my blog, I work as a health promoter with the military (air force to be exact) . I adore my work and I adore the population I serve, and I absolutely love the sounds of jets overhead. Sometimes, however, it has its frustrating moments. Today I was literally vibrating with excitement as I was invited to speak to a very large group of members during an afternoon brief. Since I see many of them in my courses, I thought I would create something special, funny, and most importantly something to get them into my classroom.

When I walked into the room (expecting to see a sold out crowd) there were only a handful of people waiting for me. Unfortunately, other duties took priority and health promotion didn't have its' day in the sun (go figure....how could defending and serving the country take priority over healthy eating?). But what transpired following my internal disappointment was probably more impactful than any briefing I could give.

I sat down and spent the next 30 minutes listening to their personal stories of military life. I heard stories about boot camp, about deployments, and about this guy and that guy. The f-bomb was dropped more than I could count with no pardons or looks of guilt (which was a fabulous sign I was a part of the group).  After six years of trying to figure out how to influence this special population of people, I felt I was merging slowly into their fold. I listened more than talked, I spoke their language (I tell ya...dropping the f-bomb myself in a professional setting is not only a wonderful novelty..it's almost empowering). The more I swore the more they trusted me. Fabulous!

I studied (and am continually amazed by) the influence of culture in my graduate studies; in particular fitness culture. Through my research, I uncovered many surprising reasons behind people's opinions and avoidance of the gym. It all came down to the practices, uniform, and language of the culture. Every population has one. Whether it is Canadian or American (thank you, by the way, to all those Americans reading this blog...you are blowing the Canadian readership out of the water!) older adult or tweens, or military or civilian...we all have our language, uniform, and practices (along with beliefs and attitudes).

By integrating ourselves into the culture we work with, I believe, we are more successful at change. I mean, how many health promoters teaching smoking cessation have never touched a cigarette? They expect to be taken seriously when all the smoker cares about is if they smoked. I am so lucky to co facilitate my addictions awareness course with a social worker who has been addicted to booze, drugs, and gambling. He has life experience coupled with education. He is not only an amazing facilitator but is able to share his experiences with those in the class; making him one of the most impactful facilitators I have met....you know who you are G (take a bow and know that you rock my HP world).

To end my story, I took my memory stick back to the office with the hopes that I will get another chance to show off my new "10 Steps to the Worst Body Ever" presentation...but until then, I may drop by the mess for a drink, a smoke, and a couple of swear words (kidding.......but it would be kinda cool to see the looks on their faces.....wouldn't it?).


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