Many organizations in Oklahoma have become certifiable – Certifiably Healthy that is! So what does that mean? Being Certified Healthy means an organization has created an environment that supports health. That healthier environment could be focused on employees, customers, students or members, and improves our individual access to healthier options. So rather than being at the mercy of a particular environment, we are provided with options by Certified Healthy organizations, making our individual choice to act in a more healthy way an easier thing to do. 

Having healthier environments, making the healthy choice the easy choice, where we live, work, learn, play and pray is especially important for Oklahomans. We need all the help we can get! Oklahoma has the 3rd highest number of deaths due to cardiovascular disease in the United States. Obesity prevalence ranks us 3rd highest, and diagnosed Diabetes prevalence ranks us 8th in the nation, which doesn’t even account for Prediabetes numbers. Leading directly up to these diagnosable conditions are the behaviors and rankings for which Oklahoma has become famous. We’re also more physically inactive than 47 other states, smoke at a rate higher than 39 states, and have more poor mental health days than 45 others (Americas Health Rankings, 2018). 

“Altering these unhealthy personal behaviors will dramatically improve Oklahoman’s health status but people do not make health decisions and behavior choices in isolation. Personal health decisions are made within a larger and complex set of social and physical surroundings, including the people around them; the places they live, work, learn, play and gather; the options available to them; and the practices of their peers.” states the Oklahoma Health Improvement Plan. 

In 2018, over 10,000 certifications have been awarded. They were Certified Healthy within one of the program’s seven sectors:

• Businesses

• Campuses

• Communities

• Congregations

• Early childhood programs

• Restaurants

• Schools 

Why aren’t all organizations Certified Healthy? Some organizations aren’t yet certified because they are simply unaware of the Certified Healthy program and its resources and services. Organizational leaders’ think of this wellbeing-type programming as only being available through high-cost privately contracted or purchased services. This is not the case in Oklahoma. In fact, this is the service area where Oklahoma rises above most states and shines. Oklahoma offers abundant no-cost resources and services at the local and state level, focused on reducing this burden of chronic conditions in Oklahoma. 

The environments and behaviors leading to these health rankings are directly affecting our families and our communities. Certified Healthy has shed light on the space where health choices are made and illuminated a tangible solution to our states health-related burden. What if the organization you spend your time and money with provided healthier spaces and you along with those important to you had a better chance to be healthier and live longer?

Here’s how you can help and individually affect your environment for the healthier. Ask your employer and the organizations you frequent, “Are you Certified Healthy?” Do they have a Certified Healthy sticker on their front door? What are your community, church, school, favorite restaurant, and childcare facility doing to improve access to healthier options for the people they serve and those important to them? If each person reading this suggested to an organization they become Certified Healthy, what a difference it could make in individual lives! 

Beyond supporting the people they serve, those important to them, and creating environments that make the healthy choice the easier choice, organizations qualifying to be Certified Healthy receive well-deserved recognition awards, media coverage, and are invited to attend the annual Certified Healthy Awards workshops and luncheon. 

To learn more go to the Certified Healthy Oklahoma website:  

Help Oklahoma Shine! Ask that your environments be Certified Healthy!

Melinda Caldwell is a TSET Healthy Living Program Coordinator.

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.

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