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FEMA funding study to help firefighters prevent injuries
Bridget Melton
Bridget Melton

STATESBORO — Bridget Melton, Ed.D., professor in the Department of Health Sciences and Kinesiology at Georgia Southern University, is part of a team awarded $1.1 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to assist with a study aimed to promote wellness in firefighters and first responders.

Melton is collabo rating with researchers at the University of Kentucky as part of a three-year study that builds on a decade of foundational work by Melton and the Tactical Athlete Initiative team in the Waters College of Health Professions, College of Education and the Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health. The grant will help the researchers assist firefighters with injury mitigation, better work outcomes and reduction in financial burdens.

“Our tactical research team has collaborated with our local fire department, Statesboro Fire Department, to create an industry- leading integrated health approach to firefighter wellness,” Melton said. “In this model, the firefighter’s health and wellness is prioritized in a cost-effective approach.”

The integrative approach brings the best human performance practices to first responders, infusing strength and conditioning coaches, athletic trainers, nutrition specialists and mental skill experts.

A handful of agencies nationwide are beginning to embrace this integrated approach.

Even with the model’s success, there is still limited research on benefits to the firefighter, health care costs and the organization with this new model, Melton noted.

“The goal of the FEMA study is to provide agencies and government officials with evidence supporting the model,” she said. “We want to be able to demonstrate to these individuals that their return on investment will be worth it, as firefighters using the model will sustain fewer injuries; therefore, the agency’s financial burden will be reduced.”

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