Austen Arnold1, Thomas Nagel1, Gregory Ryan2, Mario Keko1, Bridget Melton1. 1Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, GA. 2Piedmont University, Demorest, GA.

BACKGROUND: Worksite wellness programs are an excellent option to help promote health and wellness among employees. However, there is little research that explores the value of embedded wellness program in rural fire departments (FD). PURPOSE: This study aimed to understand the impact of a departmental wellness program on health metrics in rural southeastern firefighters. METHODS: Sixty-five career firefighters from two rural southeastern Georgia FD participated in this study; FD1 (n=46) (age: 36.2 ± 8.8 years) had an established wellness program, and FD2 (n=19) (age: 30.4 ± 9.4 years) did not have a structured wellness program. The structured wellness program included weekly shift workouts and wellness micro lessons through the year focusing on sleep, nutrition, stress, and mindfulness. Each FD underwent a health metrics test battery, in line with National Fire Protection Association standards, including: body mass index (BMI); body fat percentage (BF%); hip circumference (HC); systolic and diastolic blood pressure (SBP and DBP); lung function; and resting heart rate (RHR). BMI was calculated from recorded height and weight on a calibrated stadiometer. BF% was measured via seven-site skinfold. HC was assessed using a tape measure. RHR was recorded via pulse oximeter. SBP and DBP were analyzed via an electronic sphygmomanometer, and lung function via spirometry. Independent samples t-tests were run (α = 0.05) comparing each variable between the two FD. RESULTS: Statistical differences existed in spirometry (FD1: 91.9% ± 4.9%, FD2: 98.8% ± 9.8%; p < 0.01) and HC (FD1: 41.7 inches ± 3.2 inches, FD2: 42.8 inches ± 5.3 inches; p < 0.01). No statistical differences were noted between the FD in SBP (p = 0.17), DBP (p = 0.34), RHR (p = 0.076), BMI (p = 0.072), or BF% (p = 0.15). CONCLUSIONS: The current study demonstrates a modest, positive impact on health metrics in the presence of a structured wellness program among rural firefighters. It is possible that the younger average age of FD2 could have masked the potential impact of the wellness program, as many of the health metrics analyzed increase with age.

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