Oklahoma has been one of many states to see a steady rise in obesity rates over the last two decades. The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) began a year-long process to convene partners from across the state to develop a State Obesity Plan. With more than 30 partners from a variety of agencies contributing, a plan is being created to address the rise in obesity across the lifespan.  

The increased obesity rate is alarming for Oklahomans as individuals and as a state for a number of reasons. Obesity can increase the likelihood of other chronic conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, stroke and some types of cancer. At the state level, a higher prevalence of obesity and other related conditions lead to an increase in medical spending exceeding $1 billion a year. The increase in adolescent obesity is a concerning factor for future obesity rates.

During the process of creating a state plan, input was gathered from Oklahomans across the state, representing all segments of the population. The plan focuses on strategies for each age group which can make a direct impact on the environment contributing to chronic health conditions, with a particular focus on obesity. The plan was coordinated by OSDH, but it will take all partners working together to accomplish the goals and objectives set forth to achieve Governor Kevin Stitt’s goal of being a top 10 state.

“We look forward to working with our numerous partners across the state in addressing the social determinants of health to more effectively work in preventing and reducing obesity in our state,” said Commissioner of Health Gary Cox. “It will take a coordinated and targeted community health approach that will improve the health and quality of life for Oklahomans.”

The objectives outlined in the plan aim to take a comprehensive approach to combatting obesity as it calls for coordination with the health care system to increase resources and education for providers to better work with patients on managing weight status. It focuses on providing adequate access to all Oklahomans across the state and also highlights improvements to the environments in which most Oklahomans spend most of their time. This includes early care and education locations, schools, worksites, and the communities in which people live and play.

While personal responsibility will always be a component of weight management, the plan aims to identify environmental changes which will make it easier for all Oklahomans to choose to be healthier, and to encourage healthy habits and behaviors. This plan also wants to put resources and education in the hands of Oklahomans so the decisions they make can be well informed, but also supported by the environment in which they live.

The goals identified in the plan are listed below:

• Increase access to health care for all Oklahomans.

• Improve the care environment supports for appropriate physical activity and nutrition in early childhood settings.

• Improve the physical activity and nutritional environment in Oklahoma schools.

• Increase the health-promoting environment of employers in Oklahoma.

• Increase resources available to older adults to enhance well-being.

• Increase the utilization of available data to allow for more efficient use of limited resources.

• Increase built environment infrastructure which promotes safe biking and walking.

• Improve the nutrition environment in communities across the state by ensuring each county is utilizing available funds for a summer feeding program.

The OSDH will release the final version of the plan in the coming weeks.  For more information about obesity, visit www.health.ok.gov.

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