, Muskogee, OK

Local News

September 16, 2008

Mayor looks to improve residents’ health

Muskogee’s mayor introduced on Tuesday members of a task force charged with finding ways to improve the community’s public health.

By proclamation, Mayor John Tyler Hammons set out goals he hopes the city can achieve by addressing three critical health issues: nutrition, exercise and tobacco cessation.

Task force members say the partnership between the city, Muskogee County Health Department and others in the medical community is geared to help decrease the mortality rate, lower health insurance premiums and improve residents’ quality of life.

Health statistics cited in support of Hammons’ proclamation and the city’s wellness initiative include information regarding obesity and tobacco use. Data provided by the Oklahoma Health Department include the following:

• Sixty-five percent of all Oklahomans and 64 percent of Muskogee residents are overweight or obese.

• Medical expenses for treating obesity-related illnesses in Oklahoma total $864 million annually.

• Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in Muskogee and Oklahoma.

Linda Hattaway, administrative director of the Muskogee County Health Department, said the goal of the wellness initiative is to “change the culture of Muskogee” when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle.

“We need, as a community, to come together and help each other be healthier,” Hattaway said in her presentation to the city’s Finance Committee. “We’re looking for good ideas and ways to make that happen.”

Hammons said the Muskogee Wellness Initiative will include a comprehensive outreach program, education and technical assistance. The mayor’s task force will coordinate those activities.

The United Health Foundation in 2007 ranked Oklahoma 47th nationally with regard to public health. That was down from 44th in 2006. Some of the findings that contributed to the lower ranking included obesity, which increased from 11.6 percent of the population in 1990 to 28.8 percent in 2007.

Other factors considered by the nonprofit organization, whose stated goal is the improvement of health and health care, were the high rate of deaths from cardiovascular disease — 412.1 deaths per 100,000 population — and a high prevalence of smoking, 25.1 percent of the population.

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