Doctors say Oklahomans need to exercise, stop worrying

Sunday, January 11th 2004, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Oklahoma's medical doctors want to beat the statistics that say people living in the state are unhealthier than most people living in the United States.

The state's more than 5,000 medical doctors have launched a campaign to address what they believe are Oklahoma's root causes of heart disease, cancer, lung problems and strokes.

The campaign focuses on developing healthy habits for adults and children as well as improving the mental health of Oklahomans.

In a 2002 report, Oklahoma ranked 46th in the nation for health. Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Arkansas rounded out the bottom half of the list compiled by UnitedHealth Foundation.

Members of Oklahoma's medical community are making strides to try to change those numbers.

Part of the Physicians' Campaign for a Healthier Oklahoma asks members of the Oklahoma State Medical Association to give patients a health survey that asks people how often they exercise and about preventative health screenings, among other things.

Doctors are also emphasizing the importance of exercising and healthy eating.

``The choice of living a healthier lifestyle is not a monetary issue,'' said Dr. W.H. Oehlert, chairman of the state medical association's Physicians' Campaign for a Healthier Oklahoma.

``The camouflage for poor choices has been that healthier choices cost more. That has not been my experience.''

Dr. Dale W. Bratzler, co-chairman of the medical association's Council on Public and Mental Health, said obesity, inactivity, tobacco and depression represent Oklahoma's biggest obstacles to better health.

``Many of the patients that I see in my hospital practice suffer from diseases for which the risks can be modified by changing lifestyles,'' he noted.

The Oklahoma Academy of Family Physicians, meanwhile, is focusing on the harmful effects of patients' obesity and smoking.

``We know their families, their environments and their communities. Because we see these patients every year, even small successes in the treatment of these diseases and situations are likely to have far-reaching effects,'' said Sam Blackstock, academy executive vice president.

``The gravity and immediacy of the problem are there. Only tobacco use causes more preventable deaths each year than being overweight. More than 60 percent of Oklahoma adults are overweight or obese and 15 percent of children and adolescents are overweight,'' Blackstock said.

For smokers, he said, Oklahoma family physicians are ``helping our patients quit smoking by directing them to pharmacological therapies and support groups.''

Medical professionals are also working on ways to improve the health of the state's children.

The state Health Department and Oklahoma Academy of Pediatrics has issued ``Healthy New Year's Resolutions'' for Oklahoma children, that urge children to brush their teeth and wash their hands.

The resolutions also suggest increased activity, and better diet with less sweets and more fruits and vegetables.