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For Release: March 29, 2012 – Pamela Williams, Office of Communications – 405/271-5601


Lifelong Health Starts with Wellness

Did you know that even though Americans are living 78 years on average, only 69 of those years are spent in good health? Many diseases and deaths are preventable by implementing simple changes to our daily routine, one of the key messages of National Public Health Week, April 2-8.

“National Public Health Week is a time to celebrate advancements in public health, assess our state’s current public health status, and highlight the importance of educating Oklahomans about ways they can live healthier lives,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Terry Cline. “We know that lifelong health starts with a focus on wellness. Oklahomans can make a real difference by committing to healthier behaviors for themselves, their children and families.”

Individual actions that can result in significant progress toward living a healthier and longer life include eating a healthier diet, avoiding excessive alcohol use, not using tobacco or other drugs, practicing proper handwashing and food preparation, assuring vaccinations are current, and practicing safe sex.
In addition to making small health changes at home, individuals also have the power to make positive preventive health changes in their communities, like promoting tobacco-free environments in businesses and schools.

“Small commitments to health can have a big impact when they are spread throughout an entire family and community. These practices can result in changes that will improve our state’s health outcomes,” Cline said. He encouraged Oklahomans to “start small but think big” and offered these examples:

Obesity Reduction

Start small: Put more color on your plate by adding fruits and vegetables to your diet. Move more by adding steps to your day.

Think big: Advocate in your community to increase safe routes for kids to walk and bike to school.

Tobacco Use Prevention

Start small: Commit to keeping the people you care about in completely smoke-free environments.

Think big: Quit using tobacco products and encourage other tobacco users to quit. Support smoke-free and tobacco-free environments where you work, learn, live and play. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW for cessation support.

Disease Prevention

Start small:  Make sure your immunizations, and those of your family members, are up-to-date.

Think big:  Support community efforts to provide immunizations to children and adults. Vaccinations from birth to adulthood can provide a lifetime of protection against many diseases and infections.

National Public Health Week is sponsored annually by the American Public Health Association to celebrate the role of public health in communities throughout the nation. For information about public health programs in your area, contact your local county health department.

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Sidebar #1: Public Health Achievements

Public health is credited with adding 25 years to the life expectancy of people in the United States in the 20th century, due largely to achievements in these areas:
• Immunizations
• Motor Vehicle Safety
• Workplace Safety
• Control of Infectious Disease
• Declines in Deaths from Heart Disease and Stroke
• Safer and Healthier Foods
• Healthier Mothers and Babies
• Fluoridation of Drinking Water
• Tobacco as a Health Hazard

Sidebar #2: Public Health in Action in Oklahoma

The Oklahoma State Department of Health is at work every day to keep Oklahomans healthy.

• To investigate and stop the spread of infec¬tious diseases in Oklahoma, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) moni¬tors more than 70 diseases that are reported to the agency. Nearly 25,000 infectious disease case reports and nearly 48,000 electronic laboratory reports were received by the OSDH in 2011. Last year the OSDH conducted 61 disease outbreak investigations.

• To detect the presence of infectious diseases in Oklahoma, the State Public Health Laboratory provides crucial laboratory testing facilities for disease surveillance. In calendar year 2010, the laboratory conducted 615,779 tests, including rabies testing. The State Public Health Laboratory also screens for 53 genetic/metabolic conditions of newborn infants. In 2010, this process identified 3,764 abnormal test screens and of that number, 58 babies were confirmed to have hidden disorders, allowing for prompt treatment and intervention.

• To assure Oklahomans receive quality health care and consumer services, the OSDH conducts rigorous licensure and inspection processes that result in the issuance of 97,303 assorted business and occupational licenses annually, ranging from grocery stores, restaurants, hotels, and tattoo artists, to ambulance services, hospitals, surgery centers and nursing homes.

• A network of 68 local county health departments serves Oklahoma’s citizens. (Oklahoma City and Tulsa operate city-county health departments that are administratively autonomous from the state health department county network.) In 2011, this network provided more than 3.5 million services to 579,411 clients in 965,783 visits. Among the services offered were adult and child health services, early intervention, child guidance, maternity, sexually transmitted disease prevention, breast and cervical cancer screening, tuberculosis prevention and control, immunizations, and WIC services to women and children.

• Last year county public health specialists conducted 55,440 inspections or investigations at retail food services, hotels/motels, swimming pools, barber shops, day care centers, as well as follow up investigations to numerous citizen complaints.

• Local county health departments are also hosts for Turning Point, a public-private collaboration designed to improve the health of Oklahomans through public health partnerships in communi¬ties throughout the state. Sixty-six partnerships are now actively involved in improving Okla¬homa’s
health through such activities as Certified Healthy Oklahoma projects, tobacco-free com¬munities, opportunities for increased physical fitness, nutrition classes, and a variety of other local programs that encourage citizens to eat better, move more and be tobacco free.

• To assist Oklahomans in acquiring legal documents, birth and death certificates are issued by the OSDH Vital Records Service, with more than 400,000 certificates issued annually.

Sidebar #3: Oklahoma “Hot Topic” Issues

The Oklahoma Health Improvement Plan, launched in December 2009, addresses improving health outcomes through three targeted flagship initiatives: obesity reduction, tobacco use prevention and children’s health improvement.
• Obesity rates have grown faster in Oklahoma than any other state in the nation over the last 15 years. In 2011, Oklahoma ranked as the seventh worst state in adult obesity, third worst in physical inactivity among adults, and Oklahoma has the lowest level of fruit and vegetable intake among all states. One in three Oklahoma kids is overweight or obese, placing them at greater risk of becoming obese adults. Oklahoma spends $854 million on obesity-related diseases each year.

• Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in Oklahoma, taking 6,000 Oklahoma lives each year; 87,000 Oklahoma youth alive today will eventually die from smoking. On average, Oklahoma businesses lose $4,400 each year for every employee that smokes.  Each Oklahoma household, whether it has a smoker or not, pays $548 every year in state and federal taxes for smoking-caused government expenses. Oklahoma pays $1.16 billion to support health care for tobacco-related illnesses.

• It’s an unfortunate fact that fewer babies survive their first birthday in Oklahoma than in almost any other state in the country. There are a number of factors associated with Oklahoma’s infant mortality rate including maternal health, quality and access to medical care, socioeconomic conditions, and public health practices. Just as sobering is that child health data indicate the leading causes of death for children and teens are changing from natural causes such as illness and birth defects to preventable causes including injuries and violence.

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