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The Impact of Surveillance on Weight Change and Predictors of Change in a Population-Based Firefighter Cohort

Poston, Walker S.C. PhD, MPH; Jitnarin, Nattinee PhD; Haddock, C. Keith PhD; Jahnke, Sara A. PhD; Tuley, Brianne C. BA

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: August 2012 - Volume 54 - Issue 8 - p 961–968
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e31825296e0
Original Articles

Objective: To document weight changes in a population-based cohort of male career firefighters and evaluate the impact of health surveillance on subsequent participant behavior and body composition.

Methods: Body mass index, waist circumference, and body fat percentage were assessed longitudinally in 311 male firefighters.

Results: Firefighters who reported making no changes after the baseline assessment (42.1%) experienced a 0.64 ± 3.1 kg average weight gain, whereas firefighters who reported making one or more health behavior change (ie, changing their diet, increasing their physical activity, or both; 52.1%) lost an average of −1.3 kg.

Conclusions: Regular health surveillance may motivate some firefighters to make health behavior changes. Although it is not currently the norm, fire departments should provide firefighters with annual health assessments including body composition and fitness measures, consistent with those recommended by the fire service's Wellness and Fitness Initiative.

From the Institute for Biobehavioral Health Research (Drs Poston, Jitnarin, Haddock, and Jahnke, and Ms Tuley), National Development and Research Institutes, Inc, Leawood, Kan; and National Development and Research Institutes, Inc (Dr Jitnarin), Public Health Solutions, New York, NY.

Address correspondence to: Walker S.C. Poston, PhD, MPH, Center for Fire Rescue and EMS Health Research, Institute for Biobehavioral Health Research, National Development and Research Institutes, Inc, 1920 W 143rd St, Ste 120, Leawood, KS 66224 ( or

This study was funded by a grant from the Assistance to Firefighters Grants program managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the Department of Homeland Security (“A prospective evaluation of health behavior risk for injury among firefighters—the Firefighter Injury Risk Evaluation [FIRE] study”; EMW-2007-FP-02571).

None of the authors reported any conflicts of interest, including financial, consultancy, institutional, and/or other relationships that might lead to bias or a conflict of interest.

©2012The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine