It’s not uncommon to turn to the internet when seeking health and wellness information. However, the World Wide Web is a huge place, where anyone with computer access can post anything they want. It’s difficult to know whether information found online is accurate or even safe. This is an issue the team at the 3rd Infantry Division’s Health Promotion Office has been working on for more than a year now with the development and launch of their new website, MarneHealth.com.
Live since March, the site has become an easily accessible and reliable resource for all kinds of health information. During last week’s quarterly Community Leaders Information Forum on Fort Stewart, the Division Health Promotion Office briefed unit commanders, unit advisors and senior leadership about their efforts to market the website to the community, division health promotion officer Sarah Lopez said.
She reminded the group that before Marne Health’s website, there was no solid “one-stop-shop” online option for locally vetted, good health information.
“Google inundates us with information, but it is not necessarily vetted. Anyone can put something out there,” Lopez said. “We provide information that is vetted by our service providers, doctors, program directors … those people who are real subject-matter experts in the health community.”
Although the site is designed with soldiers, family members, retirees and Department of Defense civilians in mind, the site is open to all online users.
Lopez is part of the two-woman team that built the site from the ground up, with the approval of and assistance from the 3rd ID Community Health Council’s board of directors. The council consists of community leaders and partners from across the division. They are separated into working groups to set goals, identify trends and program gaps, and prevent departments from duplicating work.
“At first, the site was built with a lot of resources from reliable sources, such as the (Centers for Disease Control),” said health promotion program assistant Melissa Reams, the other half of the duo.
She said they worked hard to incorporate more than 114 locally written articles, which makes the site more personal. Being able to reference local resources in the community is another great feature, Reams said, because it gives users the ability to link up with exactly what they need right here in the area.
“What does Hinesville and Fort Stewart need to know? What’s important to us? What’s available both inside and outside the (post) gates?” Lopez asked. These are the questions she and Reams ask when searching for resources and articles to include on the site.
Focusing on mind, body and spirit, Lopez said the site takes a holistic approach to health. Each site section has a wealth of articles, resources and “Ask the Expert” columns with answers to frequently asked questions from within the community. Other site posts include workouts, family health information, a calendar of area events and community resource guides for Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield.
Lopez and Reams said they always are looking for ways to improve the growing site. They examine trends and data from the Community Needs Assessment Survey, an annual survey done at Army installations designed to identify areas in which the community needs more education and programs. From there, the Community Health Council sets goals to work on for the year ahead.
The overall main goal of the site is education, Lopez said, since education is proactive and helps to prevent problems before they become major issues.
This year, Lopez said her office has four main goals for the community and the site that were driven by guidance from the council and senior leadership.
“Our four focus areas this year are combating substance abuse, promoting physical readiness, financial readiness and special emphasis on healthy relationships,” she said. “Last year, one of the council’s goals was to reduce DUIs by 20 percent, and we ended up with a decrease of 39 percent, which is outstanding.”
The site’s usage is rising, said Reams, who examines real-time site-usage data with Google Analytics. To date, MarneHealth.com has seen more than 1,077 visits by 580 unique visitors who have racked up 3,123 individual page views.
Lopez and Reams said they hope their increased promotion of the site — especially to the installation’s new soldiers — will lead to even more growth and an established reputation for being the go-to online source for reliable health information in the area.