The Oklahoma Fit Kids Coalition, a statewide initiative of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy, is committed to fighting for policies that address the barriers the state faces in making healthy choices.
Starting an important conversation about child trauma and how its effects rob our ability to shape a healthier future for Oklahoma is another initiative in progress.
The Centers for Disease Control began collecting data on child trauma in the mid-1990s. The data shows an overwhelming correlation between child trauma and poor health outcomes as an adult: addiction issues, obesity, heart disease, cancer and diabetes, and, in some cases, early death.
But it’s a complex problem, and even as an advocate for both children and health, I often think, “Where do we start?” That initial question — “where do we start?” — is not one that’s foreign to me, and one that prior to five years ago left me paralyzed in regard to changing my own health.
At the age of 30 and 100 pounds overweight, I struggled with my health. I was pre-diabetic and prehypertensive, and faced a daily reality that included missed days of work, routine trips to the doctor and worse — the inability to feel worthy of living the life I had always imagined.
After hitting rock bottom, I decided there was only one way out of the depths of despair I felt, and that was simply one step at a time.
I’m no longer 100 pounds overweight and am, in fact, healthy and living a life that before seemed unimaginable: advocating for the health and well-being of thousands of Oklahoma children who often don’t have a voice or a choice about their own physical and emotional health.
My journey taught me a powerful lesson regarding complex issues not only about my own health, but also about other issues such as child trauma. That lesson is to take each issue one step at a time.
So where do we start in our fight to bring light to an issue that contributes to our poor health rankings, Oklahoma children having a shorter life expectancy than their parents, and businesses losing billions annually in lost productivity and absenteeism?
We start by acknowledging conditions in which some Oklahoma children live that will one day lead to unhealthy choices as adults. We start by not being scared to have a very public conversation about a topic that might not be as politically expeditious as talking about a tax cut in an election year, but one that might be more beneficial than any tax cut imaginable.
And we do it together, one step at a time.
England is director of the Oklahoma Fit Kids Coalition.