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Comanche County makes strides in healthy lifestyles

Oklahoma and Comanche County still have work to do to encourage healthy lifestyles, but there's plenty to celebrate in the gains that have already been made.

That was one of the messages Friday at the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) Healthy Living Program legislative breakfast at Comanche County Memorial Hospital.

First the bad news. TSET Executive Director John Woods told the breakfast meeting that 7,000 Oklahomans died prematurely each year because of tobacco use.

"It's our No. 1 killer," he said, more than suicides, murders, auto wrecks and alcoholism combined. Minors are still exposed to secondhand smoke in vehicles and there are no comprehensive laws for smoke-free areas.

"We have cheap cigarettes in Oklahoma and that is helping increase the burden of smoking on our state," he said.

The direct cost of medical care for smokers in Oklahoma is $1.62 million a year, he said, and $1.72 billion in health expenditures can be linked to obesity.

But there is good news. TSET's tobacco hotline has served more than 360,000 people in their efforts to quit tobacco use, making it the second-busiest program in the country. And he noted that Lawton was one of the first large cities in Oklahoma to ban tobacco use in public places.

Oklahoma TSET has directed funds to the Stephenson Cancer Institute at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center to allow it to become a part of the National Clinical Trials Network. Woods said that will allow cutting-edge treatments to be offered in clinical trials not only in Oklahoma City but across the state.

Tobacco use isn't the only threat to Oklahomans' health, Woods said. Obesity is a major concern and linked to $1.72 billion in annual health care costs in the state.

Changing lifestyles and encouraging Oklahomans to make better choices  in nutrition and fitness  is a major part of the way forward, he said, and "your community is leading the way in this effort."

Lisa Jansen-Rees, director of Army Community Services for Fort Sill Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, said the post has been active in encouraging good health in programs that range from providing healthy snacks at physical fitness centers to encouraging Freedom Elementary's work.

Fosie Hillis Jr., a student at Lawton High School, recounted what he's learned from being a volunteer at Memorial and working with fifth-graders who walk to Lawton High for a pep rally to encourage healthy living.

The Lawton Constitution

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