Wellness is not a mission – it is a message. Building a wellness program that will improve the quality of firefighters’ lives begins with genuine, passionate and influential leadership from all levels of a department (e.g. labor, management, Peer Fitness Trainers). The program must be comprehensive, evidence-based, and relevant to the unique demands of each participating firefighter. It needs to be accessible, inclusive, designed to inspire cultural change, and must place an emphasis on frequent collaboration and communication between all parties.
Central to this integrated approach is a framework that can be easily adopted and understood by all stakeholders – every firefighter needs the capacity to meet their demands, both on and off the job. This model provides an excellent foundation to establish recommendations for training, exercise, or rehabilitation by focusing on the application to each firefighter’s life. Ultimately, the same principles that are used by return-to-work specialists and Peer Fitness Trainers can be adopted by training officers when discussing the safest and most effective ways to perform a given job duty. Streamlining the continuum of care and providing a consistent message will provide every firefighter with the opportunity (and motivation) to improve their health, wellness, performance, and overall quality of life.