Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Obesity rates have grown faster in Oklahoma than any other state in the nation over the last 15 years. According to a report on adult obesity just released by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Oklahoma ranks seventh worst in adult obesity, third worst in physical inactivity among adults, and Oklahoma has the lowest level of fruit and vegetable intake among all states.
As governor, one of my goals is to raise awareness about the seriousness of obesity, poor nutrition and physical inactivity in Oklahoma. The result of poor nutrition, inactivity, and obesity contributes to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, arthritis and cancer. These are critical health indicators that have dire consequences for our families and even our economy. Preventable illnesses related to obesity and unhealthy behaviors are causing thousands of deaths in Oklahoma every year and an estimated $864 million in direct medical costs and lost productivity.
That’s why I’m pleased to note that the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) has expanded its community grants program to improve nutrition and fitness and reduce obesity in Oklahoma. In May, TSET’s Board of Directors approved funding for 15 new grants totaling $1.35 million as part of its “Communities of Excellence Nutrition and Fitness Program.” These new grants, awarded to community coalitions, will serve 21 counties across the state and will encourage innovative approaches to give Oklahoma communities and their citizens the tools they need to reverse the trend of obesity occurring in epidemic proportions in Oklahoma. Funding for the program comes from earnings on investments of the payments received from the tobacco industry under the Master Tobacco Settlement Agreement of 1998.
In addition to direct financial support to the grantees, training and technical assistance to support the grantees will be provided in partnership with the Oklahoma State Department of Health Turning Point Partnerships and the Strong and Healthy Oklahoma Initiative, as well as experts from a variety of organizations currently involved in promoting healthy eating and active living in Oklahoma communities.
I believe these state and local public-private partnerships are among the most effective tools we can use to improve health in Oklahoma. For example, I helped launch the Shape Your Future campaign, which works to encourage innovative public-private partnerships, like the Certified Healthy Businesses initiative. More than 900 businesses are now participating in the Certified Healthy Business program, which recognizes workplaces that provide healthy living options for their employees. This program’s success has set the stage for two “sister” programs, Certified Healthy Schools and Certified Healthy Communities, now gearing up for implementation in our state. The TSET grants and the Shape Your Future campaign illustrate how Oklahomans can create an environment that supports health improvement by making healthier living options more readily available. We have all the tools we need to become a healthier state: partners who are committed to helping people become healthy, communities that recognize the importance of having a vital citizenry, teachers and parents who dedicate themselves to encouraging children to be strong, healthy, and ready to learn, and businesses that understand that healthy employees are their most valuable resource.
As Governor, I am committed to the future of a healthier Oklahoma and would ask that each of you make a pledge to do your part in shaping that future. Every community, business and school has a role in empowering individuals to live healthier lives where they live, work and learn.
By: Governor Mary Fallin