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Health promotions coordinator helps Airmen, civilians meet fitness needs

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas -- On any given day, Aracelis Gonzalez-Anderson can be seen around Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph attending to duties such as consulting with the commissary manager about healthy items offered at the facility and conducting body fat analyses.

Although enlisted Airmen, officers and other members of the JBSA community are ultimately responsible for achieving their own physical fitness through diet and exercise, she is one of their greatest advocates in attaining their goals.

Gonzalez-Anderson serves as 359th Aerospace Medicine Squadron health promotions coordinator at the JBSA-Randolph Health Promotions Office, formerly known as the Health and Wellness Center.

“As health promotions coordinator, I evaluate, coordinate and advance health promotions across the installation,” she said.

At her office just south of the Rambler Fitness Center, Gonzalez-Anderson facilitates body fat analyses with the use of a bod pod, an egg-shaped chamber that measures the body mass and volume of the person sitting inside it, and provides an environment for people who use the massage chairs in the facility’s relaxation room.

“Upon request, I offer one-on-one nutritional advice,” she said. “I also coordinate with sister services to bring classes to the health promotions office so that members within our installation can take the nutritional and fitness class that can suit their health care needs.”

Gonzalez-Anderson, whose active-duty career was devoted to operational medicine as an Air Force Medical Service technician, now finds herself “on the other side of the fence.”

“During my time as a medical service technician, I helped assist patients with disease management,” she said.

Now she helps people prevent diseases by making better lifestyle choices.

Gonzalez-Anderson’s background as a technician gives her greater insight into the health issues and concerns of her clients, while the master of business administration degree she has earned allows her to sell a product.

“I’m promoting something,” she said. “I’m selling them their health care. I’m selling them a renewed sense of wanting to have a healthier lifestyle.”

The challenges Gonzalez-Anderson faces require her to be innovative, she said.

“The challenges I face in my work are probably the same that many of us face in our day-to-day jobs around the installation – manning and resources – so we have to be innovative on how we approach health promotions,” she said. “That’s why making lasting connections with different agencies and community services around base is important so that we can make health promotions work.”

The facilities on base that contribute to health promotions include the fitness center and youth center, Gonzalez-Anderson said.

“I reach out to them because of the uniqueness they bring to the table,” she said. “The fitness center can help me motivate individuals into being more active with the events they hold; the youth center can help me get the kids more involved in being outside and teaching them healthy eating.”

Another resource, the behavioral medicine clinic, helps people find and overcome the roadblocks in their quest to be fit and provides them with stress management tools.

Gonzalez-Anderson also connects with partners outside the base community such as the FitCity SA initiative of the San Antonio Mayor’s Fitness Council.

“Community partners contribute to the success of the health promotions program,” she said.

Gonzalez-Anderson reaches out to leadership at all levels.

“I’m here to assist them with targeting unit-specific wellness work-site plans so they’re more successful in helping the people in their units make healthy patterns the social norm,” she said. “I want them to know that it’s not a cookie-cutter-type program that I want to give them. I want to go in, do a work-site assessment and tailor a specific program to their unit because we can’t make health care a one-shoe-fits-all.”

Another important aspect of Gonzalez-Anderson’s job is conducting research for the base community and telling people where they can find the resources that will help them develop healthy behaviors.

“I’m here checking out the commissary and seeing where the healthy food options are,” she said. “I’m looking into your shoppettes so I can point out where you can find a quick-fix meal.”

Gonzalez-Anderson is passionate about her job.

“I don’t just like my job, I love what I do for the people that I work for,” she said. “I don’t just work for commanders or units, I work for the people on this installation, and when I see their faces brighten up with the changes they’re making and having positive behaviors, it makes me feel as if I’m actually having a huge impact on their health care.”

Lt. Col. Vincent Falls, 359th AMDS commander, said Gonzalez-Anderson plays an important role in health care by promoting wellness.

“The Air Force Medical Service has a goal of having the healthiest and highest-performing population,” he said. “Ms Gonzalez-Anderson is leading the charge of establishing a new social norm for healthy living by interacting with base leadership and driving the message of healthy choices being the rule, not the exception.”