The Department of the Air Force is establishing new Body Composition Program standards for Airmen and Guardians after the abdominal circumference was removed from the Air Force-specific Physical Fitness Assessment in 2020.
Both the Air and Space Forces released the new Waist-to-Height Ratio BCP policy in January, with assessments to begin April 2023. The Body Composition Assessment is a separate and distinct measurement that is not part of the DAF Physical Fitness Assessment.
WHtR measures excess fat distribution in the abdominal region and is calculated by dividing waist circumference by height. Excess fat distribution in the abdominal region is associated with increased health risk.
“The goal of the new program is to empower Airmen to take charge of their health and fitness through lifestyle enhancement to optimize readiness,” said Lt. Gen. Caroline Miller, deputy chief of staff for Manpower, Personnel and Services. “Regardless of which risk category they fall in, everyone is encouraged to take advantage of the resources available to improve or maintain a healthy body composition.”
Body composition serves as an indicator of a member’s overall health and physical readiness. Department of Defense Instruction 1308.03, DoD Physical Fitness/Body Composition Program, mandates the BCP as a requirement. Excess fat in the abdominal region impairs the body’s responsiveness to insulin. As a result, it contributes to increased health risks such as cardiovascular diseases, stroke, diabetes, hypertension and musculoskeletal injuries, negatively impacting physical readiness.
The DAF BCP defines the waist as the midpoint between the lowest rib and the top of the hip bone, which is normally the narrowest portion of the abdomen. WHtR is expressed in the following risk categories and associated standards:
Airmen and Guardians will maintain a WHtR of < 0.55 to meet the BCP standards. Airmen will complete their assessments annually around their birth month, while Guardians will complete it within their birth quarter.
There are no mandatory actions for Airmen and Guardians meeting the BCP standards, however, members will have their WHtR reviewed during their annual medical Periodic Health Assessment. They will receive education or a referral based on their risk category and other health concerns if indicated.
Airmen and Guardians identified as not meeting the BCP standards will be enrolled into an informal, self-directed Body Composition Improvement Program for 12 months and referred to their medical treatment facility for a medical evaluation and assessment for additional risk factors.
Guardians will also be referred to Guardian Resilience Teams as they are established. GRTs will be comprised of human performance subject matter experts with different specialties who can provide a broad range of care for Guardians, including preventive care, performance optimization, skill-building, mental health care and spiritual assistance.
“Above all, our priority is to shift our Guardians’ mindset with regards to their health,” said Katharine Kelley, deputy chief of Space Operations for Human Capital. “We hope the new body composition program and associated holistic health educational resources will inspire our members to move away from an episodic fitness mentality to putting their health first every day.”
A collaborative and supportive approach will be used to assist Airmen and Guardians through providing tools, resources, and a tailored action plan to aid in making positive changes toward better health. Airmen and Guardians not meeting the BCP standard will reassess every 12 months at the next scheduled BCA or until they meet the BCP standard.
The initial results from WHtR are non-punitive during the 12-month informal self-directed BCIP. Failing to test on time, not scheduling or missing an appointment with the MTF team or becoming non-current may be cause for commander-driven administrative actions.
High risk results after the 12-month informal self-directed phase will be considered a failure to meet standards and will require enrollment in a formal self-directed BCIP that may result in consideration for administrative action, including separation for continued failures.
WHtR will be tracked via myBodyComp, a new application under the myFSS platform.
Additional information regarding implementation will be released at the installation level.