OKLAHOMA CITY — A report released Thursday on making the state healthier recommends increasing taxes on tobacco, improving access to healthy food choices and encouraging the building of more sidewalks and bike trails.
The Oklahoma Health Improvement Plan focuses on tobacco use, obesity and children’s health. It also makes recommendations for improving access to medical care.
The plan was mandated by the Legislature in 2008 through Senate Joint Resolution 41.
The resolution directed the State Board of Health to prepare a report that outlines a plan for the improvement of physical, social and mental well-being.
“Current national state health rankings place Oklahoma at 49th,” State Board of Health President Barry Smith said. “We find this unacceptable.
“We recognize that Oklahomans face a variety of barriers to good health due to poverty, lack of insurance, limited access to primary care, and risky personal health behaviors associated with diet, physical activity and smoking.”
If Oklahoma matched the national average in health indicators, about 5,320 Oklahoman lives would be saved every year, Smith said.
Each pack of cigarettes costs the state’s economy $7.62 in medical costs and lost productivity, according to the report.
The report recommends extending state law to eliminate smoking in all indoor public places and workplaces, except private residences. It also recommends increasing the number of tribes that voluntarily eliminate commercial tobacco abuse in tribally
owned or operated worksites, including casinos.
“Sixty-five percent of Oklahoma adults are either overweight or obese, and 31 percent of Oklahoma youth are either overweight or at risk of being overweight,” the report said.
The report recommends health-related fitness testing in all public schools. It also calls for incentives for grocery stores or farmers markets to locate in underserved areas.
In the area of children’s health, the report recommends increasing preconception care; minimizing prenatal sexually transmitted diseases; increasing the number of women who receive prenatal care in the first trimester; and minimizing unintended pregnancies.