Health Officials Release State Plan to Reduce Obesity

Oklahoma City, OK – Over the last two decades, many states have seen a steady rise in obesity rates, including Oklahoma. Across the nation, 31.9% of the adult population are considered obese compared to 36.4% of adults in Oklahoma, which equates to approximately one million adults in our state’s population having obesity.

In 2019, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) engaged in a year-long process, bringing to the table partners from across the state to develop a State Obesity Plan.

“The plan focuses on strategies for each age group which can make a direct impact on the environment contributing to chronic health conditions, with a particular focus on obesity,” said Fahad Khan, Director of Community Analysis. “While the plan was coordinated by OSDH, it will take all partners working together to accomplish the goals and objectives set forth to achieve Governor Kevin Stitt’s goal of being a top 10 state.”

While personal responsibility will always be a component of weight management, the plan aims to identify environmental changes which will make it easier for all Oklahomans to choose to be healthier, and to encourage healthy habits and behaviors. This plan also aims to put resources and education in the hands of Oklahomans so the decisions they make can be well informed, but also supported by the environment in which they live.

The work on the plan paused during most of the COVID-19 pandemic but reconvened in late 2021 and grew from 30 to over 200 partners from a variety of agencies. In the planning process, stakeholders collaborated to provide input, with their expertise, to develop a plan to address the rise in obesity through someone’s lifetime. 

This plan is important now more than ever as emerging data suggests the COVID-19 pandemic worsened underlying social, economic, and environmental barriers to healthy eating and physical activity. Those factors consequently resulted in many Americans, including Oklahomans, likely gaining weight during the pandemic.

“The increased obesity rate is alarming for Oklahomans as individuals and as a state for a number of reasons,” said Khan. “Obesity can increase the likelihood of other chronic conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, stroke and some types of cancer. At the state level, a higher prevalence of obesity and other related conditions leads to an increase in medical spending exceeding $1 billion a year.”

During the first phase of creating the state plan, input was gathered from Oklahomans across the state, representing all segments of the population. In 2021, the stakeholders focused on refining previously identified goals and objectives, while also utilizing new information and evidence to identify additional approaches to reduce obesity.

The State Obesity Plan can be found at https://oklahoma.gov/health/health-education/community-outreach/community-development-services/physical-activity-and-nutrition.html.

For more information about obesity, visit www.health.ok.gov.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) protects and improves public health through its system of local health services and strategies focused on preventing disease. OSDH provides technical support and guidance to 68 county health departments in Oklahoma, as well as guidance and consultation to the two independent city-county health departments in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Learn more at Oklahoma.gov/health