Vaping, tobacco and obesity among health issues facing Oklahoma children
OKLAHOMA CITY (January 28, 2020) – The Board of Directors for the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) met on Tuesday and discussed timelines for new programs to promote health and wellness among Oklahoma youth.
“Our daily habits are the single biggest influence on our long-term health and when you learn about healthy habits and choices when you are young, it’s much easier to stick with those habits your whole life,” said TSET Board of Directors chair Dr. Bruce Benjamin. “For that reason, the TSET Board of Directors is developing programs that will specifically target youth and help them develop the knowledge and habits they need for a lifetime of health and improved quality of life.”
The youth programs will incorporate tobacco prevention, nutrition and physical activity in a tiered approach starting with a statewide education campaign in September 2020. The program would then progress to youth advocacy and youth character building programs in July 2021.
“The vaping epidemic is reversing two decades of declines in teen tobacco use,” said TSET Executive Director Julie Bisbee. “Increases in childhood obesity mean that our youngest generation will be the first generation to see a decrease in life expectancy. That’s unacceptable. The youngest Oklahomans deserve the opportunity to pursue healthy and prosperous lives, and these programs will focus on giving them the tools to do that.”
The TSET Board of Directors identified youth programs as a priority during their annual retreat in September 2019. At that same meeting, the Board of Directors passed resolutions that endorsed several policies to support healthy habits for children including increased availability of fresh fruits and vegetables; physical activity opportunities; the creation and enhancement of local parks and walking trails; and active transportation infrastructure to promote walking and cycling.
Initial plans call for TSET to invest $2.5 million a year over five years in the educational campaign. If approved by the Board of Directors meeting in March, a competitive RFP for the campaign will likely be released in April 2020. RFPs for the youth advocacy and character building programs are slated for release in January 2021.
Benjamin noted that the Oklahoma Constitution specifically placed programs benefiting children within TSET’s scope of work.
“These youth programs are one more facet of TSET’s mission to improve the health and wellbeing of Oklahomans,” Benjamin said. “We know that improving health and wellness is a generational undertaking, and with the voters’ foresight in creating TSET, we have the ability to help Oklahoma’s children have the best possible chance at a long, healthy and happy life.”
The Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) serves as a partner and bridge builder for organizations working towards shaping a healthier future for all Oklahomans. TSET provides leadership at the intersections of health by working across the state, by cultivating innovative and life-changing research, and by working across public and private sectors to develop, support, implement and evaluate creative strategies to take advantage of emerging opportunities to improve the public's health. TSET. Better Lives Through Better Health.