According to Farm Bureau’s aggregated health data, rural Oklahoma communities are home to large populations of older residents. A significant number of individuals with medical conditions including hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and respiratory diseases and other underlying health conditions live in underserved rural areas.
Those areas make up 34% of the population of the state, with a cumulative death rate of 9.6% versus urban Oklahoma’s rate at 8.78%. Combine those statistics with closures of rural hospitals and clinics and growing food deserts, and the fact that rural communities need help with healthcare and healthier living is clear.
Yesterday, one organization that has stepped up to the task, The Carter County Healthy Living Committee (CCHLC), held a hybrid meeting to engage community leaders and individivuals in their mission to prevent and reduce cancer and cardiovascular disease by encouraging healthy eating, physical activity, and tobacco-free lifestyles. The coalition is made up of professionals and community members who want to change health outcomes in Carter County. CCHLC also collaborates with the TSET Healthy Living Program serving Carter County.
This month, the coalition’s agenda included discussion of policy with out of and after school programs, proposed amendments to local ordinances that prevent youth access to tobacoo, and the creation of a social support group focused on physical activity.
According to the CCHLC, tobacco use, poor diet, and a sedentary lifestyle have resulted in four chronic conditions: cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and lung disease in higher numbers in the region. These diseases account for more than 60% of all deaths in Carter County.
CCHLC conducted a Comprehensive Community Needs Assessment that looked at the places where rates of cancer and cardiovascular disease and the risk factors for these diseases are the highest. Detailed information from the 2020 Carter County Wellness Profile showed that in Carter County, those living in Ardmore, Wilson, and Healdton are among the most disadvantaged in the region in terms of stress, safety, and access to healthy food options. The group has narrowed their focus to nine strategies to implement in our community:
– Preventing youth access to tobacco in Carter County.
-Working with worksites to create voluntary policies to restrict tobacco use indoors and outdoors.
-Collaborating with out-of and after-school programs to create policies to ensure that children have adequate nutrition and physical activity.
-Partnering with Ardmore, Gene Autry, and Springer retail food locations to increase access to healthy foods.
-Assisting food banks with the implementation of policies that increase the availability of donated healthy foods and beverages.
-Adopting safe routes to school policies in Ardmore, Healdton, and Wilson, making walking and biking to school safe and accessible for all children.
-Creating opportunities for physical activity by sharing existing public and private spaces.
-Promoting social support groups that encourage physical activity in Ardmore, Healdton, and Wilson.
The Carter County Healthy Living Coalition meets on the second Wednesday of every month at 9:30 a.m. in the EJ Executive Board Room at the Ardmore Convention Center. Meetings are held both virtually and in-person and are open to the public. For more information or to join the virtual meeting, contact them via email at [email protected] If you’re interested in joining the physical activity support group, complete the form at surveymonkey.com/r/SVKPWS3.