VANCOUVER, Wash. — Vancouver police officers and Clark County sheriff’s deputies are working with doctors at Oregon Health &Science University in Portland to improve their health.
The officers replaced doughnuts with fruit and veggies in their diets, increased their physical activity and were working on stress reduction, The Columbian reported in Sunday’s newspaper.
The changes are part of a $3 million four-year health study led by Dr. Kerry Kuehl, who has enlisted 130 deputies from the Clark County Sheriff’s Office and 80 officers from the Vancouver Police Department, along with two law enforcement agencies in Oregon.
Over the next few years, Kuehl hopes to expand the program to police departments across the country.
The first step was stress and fitness tests of all the officers in the study.
About 21 to 25 percent of people in the general population have metabolic syndrome, a combination of conditions including high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels, diabetes, excess body fat and abnormal cholesterol levels. In law enforcement, 35 percent have metabolic syndrome, Kuehl said.
Disrupted sleep patterns and hyper vigilance from always being on guard contribute to these conditions.
Some of the goals set for officers in the study included minimum requirements for daily fruit and vegetable servings and physical activity, hours of sleep, quitting tobacco use and reducing alcohol intake.
About once a week, teams of four to six officers got together before or after work to lead their own 45-minute workshops on nutrition, fitness and stress management.
Teamwork and healthy competition improved sleep behaviors, fatigue and diet among participants. Kuehl is encouraged by the results and plans to use this year to test its durability and see if officers will stick with their nutrition and fitness goals.
Clark County Sheriff Garry Lucas and former Vancouver Police Chief Cliff Cook supported the program, but their officers did not receive any incentives or bonuses for participating. They could participate free of charge.
“This isn’t easy. We can’t do it without the participation of law enforcement officers,” Kuehl said.
Keuhl will release more data after presenting his six-month findings at the 34th annual Society of Behavioral Medicine meeting March 23 in San Francisco.