Creating a culture of health and wellness

MARPAC Health & Welness Expo from Lookout on Vimeo.


Katelyn Moores, MARPAC PA ~

Members of the Defence community and their families crowded the Naden Athletic Centre last Thursday for the MARPAC Health and Wellness Expo. This annual event was organized by the Lookout Newspaper and the MARPAC Health and Wellness Strategy team, and showcased over 100 local vendors specializing in education, fitness, recreation and health services.

Last week’s Expo is just one of the ways the MARPAC Health and Wellness Strategy team works to promote a culture of health and wellness within the Formation. The team consists of six working groups that concentrate on five key priorities: active living, addiction free living, healthy nutrition and weight wellness, organizational wellness, and social and mental wellness.

One of their main goals is to break down barriers that might prevent people from improving their mental and physical health.

In April 2015, they worked with senior leadership to introduce a new smoking policy that brought MARPAC in compliance with the Non-Smokers Health Act. CFB Esquimalt was one of the first military bases to align with this policy, which prohibits smoking on DND property except in designated smoking areas. According to Maryse Neilson, Health Promotion Manager and strategy team member, there were over 240 areas on base that allowed smoking prior to the new policy. This number has since been reduced to 39 designated areas.

“If it was simply about education we wouldn’t have the issues we see, so we know there are cultural issues as well,” says Neilson. “It’s not about shaming a person who smokes, but about creating a culture that promotes healthy choices.” 

In addition to the new smoking policy, the team has also significantly increased the number of healthy food options available within the Formation. These changes included increasing the number of fruit and vegetable options available to sailors at sea while decreasing the availability of desserts, and working with Fleet Diving Unit (Pacific) to create a healthier meal plan for their Clearance Diver QL5A course. In addition, one-third of available vending machine choices on the base have now been designated as healthy options.

Although the team is already seeing a shift towards a healthier culture, they realize that transformation takes time, and they will continue to work to improve Formation policies to support the overall health and wellness of the MARPAC community.

“We need to continue to implement policy changes that back up the behaviour we want to see,” says Neilson. “So far people have been very receptive to the changes.”

One of their most recent initiatives is aimed at increasing the use of active transportation. They are currently looking for members interested in contributing to a community forum that will help identify the challenges cyclists face, and develop ways to improve their daily commute.

They will also be recognizing Anti-bullying Day on Wednesday, Feb. 24. Both Dress for a Difference and the Fleet Run have been moved to coincide with the event, and the entire Formation is encouraged to wear pink and participate in the run to show their support for the cause.

To learn more about these or other health and wellness initiatives available to you, contact Maryse Neilson at

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  1. Debra Kravan says:

    I think breaking down the Dimensions of Wellness is a great way to learn about yourself. Occupational, Spiritual, Social, Physical, Emotional, Intellectual and Environmental. To take each one and see where you stand. To not be overwhelmed with too much at one time. A step at a time. To feel success with your goals, one at a time, then continue on with the next goal. Balance is the Key to Life.

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