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FOR RELEASE: August 26, 2003
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

Walk this Weigh on Route 66 Preparations  Begin in Pilot Communities

Preparing students for the future involves more than just reading, writing and arithmetic. Health is another important factor in growing up and being successful, according to health officials at the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH). To encourage healthy diets and exercise in the schools, the Oklahoma Turning Point Council and county health departments are providing resource guides and student journals to students and teachers in eight pilot programs to help promote good health and learning.

The eight Turning Point locations are Bristow, Cherokee County, McIntosh County, Kingfisher County, Jackson County, Muskogee County, Norman, and Choctaw County. In addition, the Choctaw Nation Diabetes and Wellness programs will participate.

The health departments and various community partners are distributing CDs, featuring a health program designed for the classroom setting, to 100 elementary schools in the eight pilot sites. The program is tailored to help the teachers fit health lessons into the normal lesson plans, engage the family and form community partnerships to help provide resources for participating schools.

The student’s health journal is called Walk This Weigh on Route 66. Students get points for activities performed and knowledge about personal wellness. These points are recorded as miles on Route 66 to California. It also involves math, spelling, and history.

U.S. adult obesity rates have risen drastically in the last decade, from 12 percent to 20 percent. Thirteen percent of children and adolescents are now overweight or obese, which represents more than a doubling in the last 30 years.

In Oklahoma, approximately 43 percent of the adults report no leisure time physical activity. Over 15 percent of our youth are considered obese and approximately 33 percent of all children under age 18 are at high risk for Type 2 diabetes. Almost 80 percent of Oklahomans are eating fewer than five servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

“Obesity creates a set of problems that can cause sickness and disability, absence from work and school, lost productivity, and higher healthcare costs for everyone,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Leslie Beitsch. “At-risk and overweight children increasingly suffer from depression, anxiety, diabetes and other health problems, and are more likely to grow up to be obese adults.”

Walk This Weigh is designed to improve the health of all the residents of Oklahoma by:

  • raising public awareness through a fun and innovative approach to reducing individual weight and increasing physical activity levels;
  • implementing healthy community design and smart growth strategies; and
  • advocating for nutritional and physical activity policies and standards in schools, worksites, healthcare systems, and governmental entities.

“Including entire communities and local businesses in partnerships can be a fun and rewarding experience for both the staff of the school and the children. It is our hope to take this program to every county by 2007 and involve as many people of all ages as possible,” Beitsch said. “The Oklahoma State Board of Health and our staff strongly support our vision statement of ‘Creating a State of Health’ because healthy families are good for communities, businesses and the entire state. This program is just one small step in a healthy direction.”

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