Shark Tank winner sinks its teeth to cut the fat

This article has photo gallery Published on LCDR Helen Ward (author), POIS James Whittle (photographer)

Location(s): Henderson, WA

Topic(s): HMAS Anzac (F150), HMAS Ballarat (F155)

Medical Officer Lieutenant Ashley Wallin of HMAS Stirling measures the height of Leading Seaman Maritime Logistics - Supply Chain Jennifer Kent of HMAS Ballarat, as part of the Fleet Commander approved Navy Individual Readiness Health Promotion Program. (photo: POIS James Whittle)
Medical Officer Lieutenant Ashley Wallin of HMAS Stirling measures the height of Leading Seaman Maritime Logistics - Supply Chain Jennifer Kent of HMAS Ballarat, as part of the Fleet Commander approved Navy Individual Readiness Health Promotion Program.

Volunteers from HMA Ships Anzac and Ballarat were queued out the door of a makeshift health facility recently at Henderson shipyards in Western Australia.

The queue wasn’t due to a pandemic, but rather a health initiative that everyone wants to take part in - a health promotion program that grew from a winning entry to the Fleet Commander’s Shark Tank competition.

Medical Officer, Lieutenant Ashley Wallin, whose successful business case led to the program’s implementation, is now leading the Health Promotion Team rolling out the program. 

The team includes Chief Petty Officer Medic Dion Dredge, Petty Officer Medic Melissa McLean, Able Seaman Medic Tahlia Cole and Able Seaman Medic Rowan Austin.

“I proposed the health promotion program because I wanted to reduce Navy health risks, increase resilience and improve operational capability, while making long-term, cost-effective savings in medical care,” Lieutenant Wallin said.

“My initial trials have demonstrated that Navy personnel respond very positively to focused dietary education and physical training regimes when they are presented with quality, science based information.

“Australian obesity levels and their related preventable conditions are placing a massive burden on the public health system and this trend is also reflected in Australian Navy personnel,” he said.

The Health promotion program begins with a one hour low carbohydrate diet presentation to all personnel and then invites interested participants to undertake a body composition scan to determine their individual goals and high intensity interval training program.

The body composition scan is undertaken in physical training clothing, fully automated and takes less than 30 seconds to complete, and is accurate to within 1% of a DEXA (dual energy x-ray absorptiometry) scan.

After the scan, all participants are debriefed by one of the medical staff, who go over the results then assist in setting achievable goals with an exercise program for the following six weeks.

Leading Seaman Maritime Logistics Support Jennifer Kent from HMAS Ballarat was keen to participate in the program.

“I have had a similar scan at my local gym in the past, but had to pay $70 last time,” Leading Seaman Kent said.

“My results were better than expected, but there are still some goals I want to achieve before the next scan in six weeks. 

“It will be relatively easy to lose a couple of kilograms by following the low carbohydrate menu options in the mess and structured exercise program,” she said. 

Initial trails with members of HMAS Adelaide’s ship’s company earlier in the year clearly demonstrated significant decreases in body and visceral fat levels, increased muscle mass, and perhaps most pleasingly: a 100% endorsement by all participants, who are now more confident of self-managing their own health outcomes in the longer term.

Interestingly, these positive changes to member’s health are being driven by the individuals themselves, with only minimal contact with the medical team following commencement of the program.

Keep an eye out for the health promotion program in your local area or ship, but get in early as places fill up fast.