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For Release:  April 15, 2011 – Pamela Williams, Office of Communications, (405) 271-5601

Minority Communities are Encouraged to Improve Their Health April is National Minority Health Month

Concern about high obesity rates and their impact on the health of Oklahoma’s minority communities has prompted the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) Office of Minority Health (OMH) to call for minority populations to make better nutrition choices, exercise more, and be tobacco free.

OMH is recognizing April as National Minority Health Month and offering tips on simple and inexpensive ways to improve health and reduce obesity among minority populations. OMH is asking for minority parents to eat lunch at their child’s school, prepare healthy snacks and nutritional dinners at home, increase physical activity levels, decrease television and electronic games time, and if using tobacco, find ways to eliminate using it.  

“What we eat has a dramatic impact on our overall health. This is true for adults and children alike.  The adult conditions we now see in children such as diabetes, extreme weight gain, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels can be traced back to food consumption and lack of physical exercise,” said OSDH OMH Director Linda Thomas.

Adult obesity rates have doubled since 1980 and two-thirds of Americans as well as Oklahomans are now either overweight or obese. Childhood obesity rates have tripled since 1980 from 6.5 percent to 16.4 percent. The overall obesity rate in Oklahoma adults, at 30.6 percent, ranks Oklahomans as the sixth most obese state.    

For minority populations, the adult obesity rate is even more alarming. In 2010, the Oklahoma adult obesity rate for persons 18 years or older with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more, was 37.1 percent for Non-Hispanic Blacks, 40.2 percent for Non-Hispanic American Indians, 30.4 percent for Hispanics, and 29.1 percent for Non-Hispanic Whites.

“These numbers can improve if each individual would eat better, become more active and help us reach the national average for health measures as noted in the ‘5320 – Shape Your Future’ health initiative promoted by the Oklahoma State Board of Health and OSDH. By taking one step at a time and encouraging our friends and family to do the same, we can make a major impact on childhood obesity as well as other chronic health conditions that plague Oklahoma minority communities,” Thomas said.     

During the month of April and in the future, the OMH wants to encourage parents, children and communities to take charge of their own lives and improve their own health. OMH suggests the following tips to get started:

  • Reduce time spent watching TV or playing video or computer games.
  • Have lunch at your child’s school to learn what nutritional school meals are offered.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables.
  • Reduce consumption of fast food and pre-packaged foods.   
  • Make “meal times” an adventure by introducing new foods and explaining to children the nutritional value of eating a variety of different types and colors of food.
  • Involve your children in meal preparation and sit down and eat together as a family.
  • Take a brisk walk after dinner.
  • Develop a plan to quit using tobacco products by calling the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).

“Research shows a direct link between good nutrition and scholastic performance. Minor changes made now can produce immediate health improvements and long term benefits,” Thomas said.

For more information about Shape Your Future visit http://www.shapeyourfutureok.com/.  For information about the OSDH Office of Minority Health call (405) 271-1337 or visit http://omh.health.ok.gov .




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