Health Department offers programs, support to help 2016 be healthier year 

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The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) encourages Oklahomans to practice healthy living in 2016 with smoking cessation, weight reduction and fitness initiatives.

Its Center for the Advancement of Wellness was created in response to a community need for smoking cessation and physical activity programs, said Adrienne Rollins, OSDH tobacco use prevention manager.

The state recently revised and updated its Oklahoma Health Improvement Plan through a survey of communities and groups, which helped identify smoking prevention and obesity as issues that residents want help with, said John Friedl, OSDH physical activity and nutrition manager.

“We really want to offer a comprehensive approach to addressing obesity and tobacco across the state,” Rollins said. “We work with partners and agencies to try to reach as many people as we can through our different strategies and initiatives.”

The center focuses on promoting Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline and its new “No judgments. Just help.” program structure.

In most cases, residents are guaranteed a two-week starter kit of nicotine replacement therapy such as patches, lozenges or gum, which are mailed to their house.

In the past four years, adult smoking in Oklahoma has decreased by 19 percent, according to OSDH.

“We are working with the Healthy Living program at the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) to pass tobacco-free policies and wellness policies … to make sure that we’re offering healthier environments and making communities change the norm,” Rollins said.

The help line also offers support through Web coaching, emails and text messages.

From 2013 to 2014, almost 78,000 Oklahomans stopped smoking, which improved Oklahoma’s ranking to No. 40 nationally, up from No. 47 in 2010.

Shrinking obesity

While the number of adult smokers shrinks, obesity rates have grown over the last 30 years. Friedl believes there are cultural and environmental components to Oklahoma’s obesity risks, and almost one-third of adult residents are obese, meaning they have a Body Mass Index score of 30 or higher.

“For the most part, obesity happens down in the South,” he said. “[But] when you look at the foods that we culturally eat, our state meal is chicken-fried steak with gravy and mashed potatoes and bread.”

One way the center promotes healthy living is through an Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation partnership to introduce a park passport with a fitness component.

“Once they’re out in these parks and taking advantage of some of the natural places for physical activity, we’re introducing physical activity challenges,” Friedl said. “The kids are excited about yoga poses or going for a walk with their family, and it sets the foundation.”

One in three Oklahoma youths is either overweight or obese, Friedl said. The center is in its second year of introducing fitness grants to interested state elementary schools.

The program partners with groups such as BlueCross BlueShield of Oklahoma and TSET to track healthy cardiovascular systems, flexibility and muscular outcomes by age and gives schools information about the health of their students.

The center focuses on how communities design transportation systems and whether they promote walking and the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Friedl said income levels, weather and the way cities spread out for miles influence activity levels and the foods people choose.

“It does require a little bit more creativity, patience and determination to find ways to be active when it’s hot or during our windy season,” he said. “One of the harder things to fight in Oklahoma is that we value that sprawl. ... It’s just the culture to jump in your car.”

Mayor Mick Cornett has led the way in promoting mixed-use development zoning downtown to offer apartments, businesses and stores within walking distance of each other, Friedl said.

Oklahoma City Housing Authority recently passed a tobacco-free policy for its multiunit housing, and the center’s Breathe Easy campaign works to ensure that worksites and public places are smoke free, Rollins said.

For SoonerCare members, Rollins said, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority removed prior authorizations and copays for all seven FDA-approved tobacco cessation medications.

To learn more, visit your local health department or, or visit the Center for the Advancement of Wellness at or call 271-3619.

Learn more about Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline at or by calling 1-800-784-8669.

Print Headline: Support network, The Oklahoma State Department of Health offers programs and support to help 2016 be a healthier year.

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