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"Small Steps for Big Change" An Integrated Approach to Fire Fighter Health and Wellness

To lower compensation costs, improve quality of life and promote a culture to maintain healthy and effective firefighters requires passionate and influential leadership from the union, management, all parties involved in the rehabilitation and return to work process, Peer Fitness Trainers (PFTs) and training officers. The program must be comprehensive, evidence-based, and relevant to the unique demands of each member. It needs to be accessible, inclusive and designed to inspire (not dictate) cultural change. An emphasis should be placed on the development of infrastructure to facilitate collaboration and communication between stakeholders. A seamlessly integrated approach to firefighter wellness is needed to achieve success. Central to this integrated approach is an evidence-based framework that can be easily adopted and understood by all parties involved – every member needs the capacity to meet the demands of their life. This model provides an excellent foundation to establish recommendations for rehabilitation or training by emphasizing the application to a firefighter’s life. Furthermore, the same principles that are used by return-to-work specialists and PFTs can be integrated by training officers when discussing the safest and most effective ways to perform a given job duty. Streamlining the continuum of physical preparation and providing a consistent message provides every firefighter with the opportunity (and motivation) to reduce their risk of injury and disease, improve their health and wellness, and enhance the overall quality of their life.

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