Editor: Daily Press
It is amazing to see the strides our public health system has made to improve the health of our state with strategies such as mass immunization, public health education, free and accessible tobacco cessation resources, and sophisticated tracking of outbreaks to pinpoint sources of disease.
It hurts, though, to see that Oklahoma is still ranked so poorly. While we recently improved our rank in the nation to 46 (up from 49), we have a long way to go. When determining each state’s rank, factors include such data as fruit and vegetable consumption, physical activity, tobacco use, and ratio of physicians to population. And while each person must take responsibility for his choices, more should be done to shape the environment we live in, so healthy choices are easier to make.
Cities and towns that invest in sidewalks and park improvements make it easier for people to get out and walk. Policies that restrict tobacco use and advertising help protect us from a predatory industry. We should be outraged the tobacco industry continues to lobby against local control, and by engaging in advertising campaigns and free sampling opportunities designed to maintain profits and attract consumers.
In 2009, a federal appeals court upheld the 2006 opinion of U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler, that the tobacco industry had deceived the public with its marketing practices. Judge Kessler wrote: “[This case] is about an industry ... that survives, and profits, from selling a highly addictive product which causes diseases that lead to a staggering number of deaths per year, an immeasurable amount of human suffering and economic loss, and a profound burden on our national health care system.”
We are fortunate to have a coalition devoted to tobacco prevention and cessation, as well as new opportunities through wellness initiatives to promote healthy living. We cannot underestimate the importance of improving our state’s health.