Thursday, November 13, 2008

2009 Legislative Agenda: AED Liability


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Oklahoma Alliance on Health or Tobacco Making OK a State of Health

On October 2nd, the Oklahoma Alliance on Health or Tobacco held its annual meeting, bringing together tobacco control advocates from across the state. In addition to extensive policy discussion and advocacy training, meeting attendees enjoyed the presentation of awards to four instititions who are really making a difference in the health of our state.
Receiving awards in 2008 were:

Cherokee Nation for their new tobacco-free campus policies for all tribal government facilities.

Osage Nation, also for their tobacco-free tribal property policy.

Dell, Inc. for becoming one of Oklahoma's largest employers to implement a strong tobacco-free workplace policy.

Francis Tuttle Career Technology Center for implementing a 24/7 tobacco-free campus policy.

The highlight of the day was our keynote presentation from Cynthia Hallett, Executive Director of Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights.
Cynthia Hallett

For those of you who had the chance to hear her, you know what an exciting and motivating speaker she is. I have video of her presentation and am hoping to get it posted online for those of you who couldn't be there in person (for some reason, YouTube is balking at a 900 MB file :) ). But, Ms. Hallett was kind enough to share her slide show, "Putting Oklahoma on the Map," with us and I have included her presentation below.Putting OK on the Map

Again, a big thank you to all of you who were able to attend our annual meeting and to all of you who are helping lead the fight against tobacco in your communities. 2009 promises to be an exciting year for all of us, and I look forward to working with you.

Wes Glinsmann
Director of Government Relations
American Heart Association/American Stroke Association


Oklahoma Alliance on Health or Tobacco

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Vote today! Wooo!


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Oklahoma's Biggest Loser

Bethany, OK residents Neill Harmer and his wife Amanda were contestants on the last season of NBC's hit show "The Biggest Loser." If you're unfamiliar with the show, the basic premise is that overweight people come to a "boot camp"-type ranch at which they compete to see who can lose the most weight over the course of the show.

Neill and Amanda before The Biggest Loser

Since coming back, Neill and Amanda have continued losing weight and are now active volunteers for the American Heart Association's You're the Cure network, helping us fight obesity in Oklahoma.

I recently caught up with Neill and had the chance to ask him a few questions about his experience on The Biggest Loser and how his life has changed since then.

Wes: What inspired you and Amanda to apply for The Biggest Loser (TBL)? How did the process work from there?

Neill: We were sitting on the couch one night watching the show like we did every week (with ice cream and cookies in our hands!). The Biggest Loser was about the only show we watched as it happened, instead of DVRing it and watching it later, fast forwarding through commercials. Well, it paid off. During one of the commercial breaks they had a "Do you want to be on The Biggest Loser" commercial. I looked over at Amanda and said, think we could do that? She said yes!

They had a deadline for video submissions in less than 2 weeks from the day we saw the commercial, so we had to get moving! I called my cousin who happened to be a video producer, he came and shot us talking about why we would be good for the show, we sent it in. Fully expecting never to hear anything about it again, thinking they get hundreds of thousands of submissions, ours won't stand out. Wrong! Exactly 4 days after we put the video in the mail box I got a call saying, "We like you and want to pursue this further". SHOCK. The rest is history, they saw something they liked and we made the show, just by being ourselves.

We always knew we needed help to lose weight, we had both tried and tried every fad crappy diet to lose weight. We both had lost weight many times, but just as many times, put it back on plus a few more. We knew we had to learn how to do it right. The Biggest Loser just happened to come along and offer us the chance to learn these things, and to get a great start at a new way of living.

Wes: What were your first thoughts when you got to the ranch and learned what you would really be doing?

Neill: The first thought was OH CRAP?! What did we get ourselves into?!

Right out of the gate we had to run up a mountain to touch a flag to be able to pick our trainer, of which we picked Jillian, then shortly after that challenge we were in the gym for our first workout. And we are not just talking about a short little walk on the treadmill for 30 mins workout. I'm talking a 4 hour session with one of the best trainers in the world. It was intense! (Sidenote: this was also the most memorable workout for me and people that happen to recognize me, as I fell off the treadmill in spectacular fashion!)

Every day of our time on the ranch was intense, difficult, just as emotionally draining as it was physically. Short and was HARD! What you see on the T.V. is only a snippet of what really happens. The show is 1-2 hours long, 1 time a week. Where in actuality we worked out up to 8 hours each and every day.

Wes: Describe a typical day for a TBL contestant.

Neill: A typical day on the ranch was sleeping till about 8am or so, getting up and changed. Going to eat a quick (need I say healthy here? haha) breakfast. Then would go do our morning "homework" for 2 hours. (Homework consisted of Jillian telling us to get a specific workout in before she got there) Then after homework we'd have lunch and relax for a little bit before Jillian got there. Once Jillian got there, IT WAS ON. She would work us for at least 4 hours, sometimes 5. The only breaks during workout would be a snack, or if you got lucky enough to be called back for an interview with the producers or whatnot for the show. After Jillian would leave, we would eat dinner and then go do the last 2 hours of homework she had given for the night.

I also should mention, we did all our own cleaning, cooking, laundry, etc, same as we would at home. We had to learn how to do all this while still balancing the needs of running a household.

Wes: Are the trainers as mean and hard-core as the show makes them appear to be? It seemed like Jillian really rode you hard, but it also seemed that she genuinely cared.

Neill: The trainers are WAY harder than you can ever see on the show that you see aired...but, you also don't get to see how incredibly caring they are, and how much they want you to succeed. Most people are overweight due to emotional or mental type issues. I was one of those people. I had tons of emotions tied to my weight, and once those pounds started dropping those emotions came out, like it or not! She helped me work through alot of those issues. Jillian was a trainer, a dietitian and a therapist rolled into a small, but LOUD, package.

Jillian: The Total Package.

Wes: During the course of the show—for right or wrong—you were sometimes thought of as “the lazy one.” (Although, to be fair, you did have a couple of injuries.) How did that make you feel and have you been able to use that as motivation?

Neill: Oh yeah, there's that "lazy" word again. As I said , we worked out for 8 hours a day, every day. Everyone, and I mean, EVERYONE had bouts of laziness/exhaustion. It all depends on how the show is cut and aired. Not only did I show some laziness, I was also running circles around people at other times.

I have to admit, I hated and still hate being called lazy. That being said, I have used that word, and that word alone, to fuel my fire. I still use it to this day to make sure I am working as hard as I can, doing as much as I can.

Wes: Describe a typical day now in the life of Neill and Amanda as far as your diet, workout routine, etc.

Neill: A normal day now for me is to wake up at 5:30 every morning and head over to the Bethany YMCA and workout for an hour or so with my best friend, Matt. Then come home, help get our son ready for school and get out the door myself and head to a day's work. I work as a project manager/web developer for Element Fusion in Oklahoma City. After work, I come home, eat dinner, and spend time with my family. I try to get a run in before I head to our 8pm 5 night a week boot camp where we try to impart our love of exercise and eating right to our campers. After boot camp we come home and try to spend some quality time together while our son is sleeping.

Wes: Can you tell us a little more about your boot camp and how that is going?

Neill: We wanted to be a part of this boot camp since we started it back in December last year (after we got sent home after elimination from the show). I had worked with the owner of the camp, Mike Cejka, at a company I had worked for on his website. I looked him up once we got home and was like, "Do you want to train some losers?" He was happy to help! And by help I mean, kick our BUTTS. He helped continue what Jillian started, and we owe him a lot of credit for helping us out like he did.

Once the show was wrapped up, we wanted to become a part of Operation Bootcamp to try to show other people that it CAN be done, and SHOULD be done. So he got us set up and on the path to becoming lead trainers. We have been training at the camp for almost 6 months now, and enjoying every bit of it. The best part is seeing the look on the camper's face when they realize, "Yes! I can do this!" That makes us really proud and allows us to give, if only a small part, of what we have learned in the last year.

(Note: for more information on Neill and Amanda's boot camp, visit

Wes: So what’s new in your life since you left TBL?

Neill: So much newness going on! The biggest news is that we are expecting our 2nd child! We are 23 weeks along and just found out we are having a baby girl. That will round out our family and be a handful for some time to come.

Aside from that we have done some other things we would have ever thought to do: run a 5k, run a duathlon (2 mile run, 14 mile bike, 2 mile run), rock climbing, a ropes course, etc. With even more upcoming: run a triathlon, run a leg in the Bombing Memorial Run, sky diving, etc.

It's amazing, once you open that door, it's like a new freedom comes along with it. No more of that fat blocking aspects of your life! It's not just a physical limitation, not at all.

Better. Stronger. Faster.

Wes: How did your own experiences drive your interest in helping the American Heart Association fight obesity in our state?

Neill: We want to see everyone be healthy and live a long time. The easiest way to be healthy is just to take care of yourself, it's not hard! You don't have to go out and run a marathon, you just need to do something, every single day. Go for a walk with your family, park in the furthest parking spot at work, take the stairs, eat less, pass on the fried and eat the grilled, etc. And certainly changing state policies to help fight obesity can be a big help, so we're glad we've gotten plugged in with You're the Cure.

Wes: So what’s the before/after on your weight loss (and Amanda’s)? And, aside from the pound numbers, how has your weight loss changed things for you?

Neill: I started the show off at 317lbs, but for the record, that is far from the heaviest I had been. My heaviest was well over 335lbs! For the shows Finale I was down to 229, which means I lost 28% of my body weight. Since the Finale in April, I have continued to drop and am now at 215lbs, and still dropping. I have started running races (ran the Komen Race for the Cure 5k race a few weeks back), and just last weekend ran in my first duathlon (2 mile run, 14 mile bike, 2 mile run). It keeps getting better and better! On the horizon I am looking to run in a triathlon and also in the Bombing Memorial run.

Amanda started the show at 204lbs, same goes for her though, that was not her heaviest weight ever, that was in the 220lb range! For the Finale she was down to a very nice 140lbs, which means she lost almost 32% of her body weight. Since the Finale, she lost more weight, but then we got pregnant, and weight loss rules do not apply quite the same. She has been ordered by her doctor to cut the workouts to just walking, which is NO FUN for her, and she is itching to get the kid out so she can get back to the new life we have of being gym rats!

Neill and Amanda. 160+ pounds later.

For more information on Neill and Amanda, visit

Monday, October 13, 2008

OK Volunteer Taking Lobbying 101

Kelli Lynch, an AHA advocate from Harrah, is on her way to Austin, TX for a two-day seminar on successful lobbying. She is joining other advocates from across our affiliate (AR, NM, OK and TX).

I look forward to working with Kelli and her new-found expertise when she gets back.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Want to Avoid Heart Disease? Brush Your Teeth!

Look, I dislike going to my dentist as much as anyone. But maybe he's on to something. Another study has found a link between poor dental hygiene and heart disease. So break out that floss, everyone. Show some love to your gums--and your heart!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

OK Health Commissioner to Retire

Sad news from the OK Department of Health. Dr. Crutcher has been a wonderful champion of health and a good friend to the American Heart Association. We certainly wish him well.

State health commissioner to retire

From Staff Reports

Dr. Michael Crutcher will retire as the head of the state Department of Health early next year, his office announced today.
Crutcher has served the post since being appointed by the state Board of Health in November 2003, replacing Dr. Leslie Beitsch. He first joined the agency in 1995, serving as the state's epidemiologist for six years and then as a deputy commissioner of disease and prevention services before assuming the role of health commissioner.

State Board of Health President Barry L. Smith said the board will begin a nationwide search for Crutcher's replacement, according to a news release issued by the department.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Dark Chocolate is Good for the Heart

Good news, chocolate lovers! A new study confirms earlier findings that a small amount of dark chocolate daily can help prevent heart disease.

Now don't let this be an excuse to overdo it--the study found the ideal amount was 6.7 grams per day, about the same as one chocolate bar per week. But if you just need that quick little dark chocolate fix in the afternoon, now you can know that you're doing your heart good.

Smoking Restrictions Are Good for Business!

A new study of Oklahoma tax data shows what we've known all along--that smoke-free air is good for business! The report found that, since Oklahoma's smoke-free restaurant law took effect in 2006, restaurant business is up 5.6%!

This directly contradicts the tobacco industry's assertions that smoking bans drive smokers away, harming restaurant and bar businesses. We will definitely need to make sure that our lawmakers hear the truth about smoking economics as we work to make Oklahoma a smoke-free state in 2009.

Take action today and tell your lawmakers to support your right to breathe clean air!


Oklahoma State Department of Health
1000 NE Tenth St., Oklahoma City, OK 73117-1299
James M. Crutcher, M.D., M.P.H., Commissioner of Health and State Health Officer

For Release: September 23, 2008

Contact: Pamela Williams

Office of Communications


Oklahoma Restaurants Not Adversely Impacted by Smoking Laws

Smoking restrictions in Oklahoma restaurants have had no adverse economic effect on restaurant business in the state, according to a report released today by the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

The report, authored by associate professor of economics Dr. Fritz Laux at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, marks the fifth anniversary of Oklahoma’s current smoking laws on Sept. 1, 2008.

“Our report found that there was no negative impact on restaurants related to the change from smoking to smoke-free,” Laux stated. “As in previous objective studies of similar changes in other places, the effects on restaurant sales and employment were neutral to slightly positive.”

Both sales and employment in Oklahoma restaurants increased, not decreased, following the March 1, 2006, transition from smoking to nonsmoking, with sales up 5.63 percent for the next 12 months. These increases, both with and without controlling for changes in overall economic conditions, paralleled those in Kansas, which had no changes in its state smoking laws during the period studied.

Oklahoma’s current smoking laws were adopted in 2003 and became effective for many public places and indoor workplaces on Sept. 1, 2003, though restaurants did not have to comply until March 1, 2006.

The current laws include loopholes exempting part or all of certain places, including smoking rooms in restaurants and all space within stand-alone bars, even though these are workplaces with concentrated levels of secondhand smoke. A bill was recommended by senate committee in 2008 to repeal the exemptions, which would make all public places and indoor workplaces smoke-free. However, that legislation did not pass in the form proposed.

Efforts are expected again in the 2009 legislative session to repeal Oklahoma’s smoking exemptions in an endeavor to improve the health status of Oklahomans and to prevent needless premature deaths and illnesses caused by exposure to secondhand smoke.

“All workers deserve protection from secondhand smoke in indoor workplaces in Oklahoma,” said Secretary of Health and Commissioner of Health Dr. Michael Crutcher. “Momentum is mounting to assure smoke-free public places and workplaces in Oklahoma,” he said. “It’s time to close the loopholes to bring our state in line with 25 other states and with hundreds of cities that have already adopted laws for totally smoke-free restaurants and bars.”

“These smoke-free laws and ordinances reflect both public opinion and also the growing knowledge among elected officials that the medical evidence overwhelmingly shows secondhand smoke to be a serious health hazard,” Crutcher continued. “In Oklahoma, it is a sad fact that approximately 700 deaths of nonsmokers annually are attributed to secondhand smoke. This exposure is entirely preventable in public places and indoor workplaces. It’s about health, and it’s about time for Oklahoma to close these loopholes.”

To access the report online, visit this Web site:


Friday, September 19, 2008

From CNN: Alabama to link premium costs to workers' health

An interesting new program in Alabama--they're going to start making state employees who don't monitor their health risks pay higher insurance premiums.

It'll be interesting to see if this reaches the goal of getting state workers to see their doctors and take charge of their health.

Save 20% at Macy's on 9/20


On Saturday, Sept. 20, Macy's stores nationwide will host a Shop For A Cause charity shopping day. Donations will benefit Go Red For Women and other local nonprofit organizations.

Customers who make a $5 donation will receive an all-day savings pass for select merchandise* in-store and on

Make your donation online and print your savings pass in advance to ensure your donation goes to Go Red For Women and the critical fight to wipe out the No. 1 killer of women — heart disease. (TIP:Check the "Other" box on the donation page and type in $5.)

Once you've made your minimum $5 donation, you'll be sent a confirmation e-mail with the savings pass attached. Just print the pass from that e-mail and bring it with you to your Macy's store Sept. 20.

Monday, September 15, 2008

All Oklahomans Deserve Smoke-Free Air!

Next year, Oklahoma lawmakers will consider legislation to give all Oklahomans the right to breathe smoke-free air.

Please take action and tell your lawmakers to support this important legislation!

Our state's current smoking laws have too many loopholes, protect too few Oklahoma workers and result in unnecessary deaths in our state. Now is the time to tell our lawmakers to protect the health of ALL Oklahomans.

Please take action today!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

More than $15 million certified for anti-tobacco efforts

eCapitol News
OK-More than $15 million certified for anti-tobacco efforts
Author :
Erin Boeckman

Date :

(OK) With $15.5 million in earnings certified by the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust Fund Board of Investors, the endowment now has more funding for anti-tobacco and health initiatives.

"This certification reflects an increase of $5.1 million or 50 percent over the funds made available last year from investment of Oklahoma's share of the tobacco settlement," said State Treasurer Scott Meacham in a news release. "Our investment strategy is paying off."

Meacham met with other board of investors' members during a special meeting Tuesday to certify the endowment's earnings. The increase in funds was attributed to investment changes undertaken by the board of investors to manage Oklahoma's share of the national Master Settlement Agreement. Specifically, Meacham negotiated new investment contracts to cut the fees paid, and the portfolio was redistributed to generate additional certified earnings while protecting the principal value of the fund, according to the treasurer's news release.

The Oklahoma Constitution limits the tobacco settlement to spending only actual earnings. Seventy-five percent of Oklahoma's share of the Master Settlement Agreement is placed into the endowment each year while the remaining 25 percent is appropriated by the Legislature. While the board of investors manages the investment of the endowment, a separate board of directors makes decisions regarding the allocation of the endowment funds.

"This increased funding will help us provide more program funding to improve the health of Oklahomans," said Kenneth Rowe, chairman of the board of directors for the endowment, in the treasurer's news release. "Once again the board of investors should be commended for their outstanding work on behalf of the state of Oklahoma."

The board of directors' goals include improving the overall health of Oklahomans by reducing tobacco use, improving nutrition and fitness among Oklahomans and addressing opportunities to promote health in Oklahoma, primarily through tobacco control or nutrition and fitness. One of the programs being funded through endowment funds is the Oklahoma tobacco helpline, which was launched in 2003 as a telephone-based counseling service for Oklahomans who want to quit using tobacco. Funds are also used on education and counter-marketing campaigns, according to the endowment trust's Web site.

The endowment currently contains more than $422 million, according to the treasurer's news release. Voters approved creation of the endowment fund in 2000. Each year the board of investors certifies actual dividends and interest earned on the endowment after investment fees are paid. Since its creation, more than $45 million in earnings have been generated by the board of investors. Oklahoma remains the only state with a constitutionally protected endowment to fund programs to reduce tobacco use and improve the health of Oklahomans.

In other business, the board of investors on Tuesday approved changes to the endowment's investment policy. The board approved a change in the benchmark for international investments and investment guidelines for equity investments, said Tim Allen, deputy treasurer for policy and administration.

The board also approved a securities fraud monitoring proposal presented by Nix Patterson & Roach LLP, a Texas-based law firm. The firm will monitor the endowment's investments for possible fraud at no cost to the state, Allen said. The firm will inform the board of investors if potential fraud is found, and costs may be incurred if litigation is pursued, he said.

The board of investors is scheduled to meet again Nov. 19.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Board of Health Calls for Tobacco-Free Higher Ed

Oklahoma State Department of Health
1000 NE Tenth St., Oklahoma City, OK 73117-1299
James M. Crutcher, M.D., M.P.H., Commissioner of Health and State Health Officer

For Release: August 21, 2008
Contact: Pamela Williams

Office of Communications

State Board of Health Urges Oklahoma Universities, Colleges and Career-Tech Centers to Adopt Tobacco-Free Campus Policies

The Oklahoma State Board of Health is encouraging all universities, colleges and career tech centers in Oklahoma to adopt tobacco-free campus policies. At their annual retreat held recently in Stillwater, the Board approved a resolution which stated that a tobacco-free campus models healthy behaviors and benefits persons of all ages by making the campus a healthier place to learn, work, live, and visit.

“Educational institutions play a special role in shaping a young person’s perceptions, beliefs, values and behaviors,” said Barry Smith, president of the State Board of Health. “Tobacco-free policies discourage the onset of tobacco use while supporting the efforts of hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans trying to quit.”

Also adopted by the Board was a resolution recognizing Oklahoma State University (OSU) for implementation of a tobacco-free campus policy that became effective July 1, 2008. Dr. Lee Bird, vice president for Student Affairs at OSU, and Robin Purdie, director of the OSU Seretean Wellness Center, received the resolution on behalf of OSU President Burns Hargis. OSU is the first university in the Big 12 Conference to implement this policy.

In February 2005, the American College Health Association issued a position statement encouraging educational institutions “to be diligent in their efforts to achieve a campus-wide tobacco free environment.” In March 2008, the Oklahoma Student Government Association recommended that “all institutions for higher education in the State of Oklahoma implement policy to become a tobacco-free campus.” In May 2008, the Student Advisory Board to the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education recommended that “all state-funded institutions of higher education in Oklahoma should become tobacco-free campuses,” adding that such policies “be individually implemented by each university administration.”

The list of Oklahoma universities, colleges and career tech centers with tobacco-free campus policies – effective 24 hours a day, seven days a week – includes Oklahoma Christian University, Oklahoma City University, Oklahoma State University (Stillwater, Tulsa and Oklahoma City campuses), University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Francis-Tuttle Technology Center in Oklahoma City, Meridian Technology Center in Stillwater, and Autry Technology Center in Enid.

Oklahoma’s leading cause of preventable death is tobacco addiction, and the vast majority of tobacco users become addicted as young people. Three-fourths of smokers want to quit and over one-half make at least one serious attempt to quit in any given year.


Friday, June 20, 2008

U.S. Life Expectancy Up, Heart Disease and Stroke Death Rates Down

The average U.S. life expectancy reached 78 years in 2006. In the same year, heart disease and stroke death rates declined by 5.5 percent and 6.4 percent, respectively. Death rates also declined for adult diabetes (by 5.3 percent) and high blood pressure (by 5.0 percent).

The data is based on a compilation of 95 percent of all U.S. death certificates, as part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Vital Statistics System.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Oklahoma Legislative Successes

In a year that took the term “do-nothing legislature” to new heights (or should that be new lows?), the American Heart Association actually had a very productive year. We made significant strides in a number of areas important to advancing the American Heart Association’s mission of building healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Access to Care
• HB 2713 allows foster parents to participate in the Insure Oklahoma program.
• SB 1404 allows non-profits with fewer than 500 employees to participate in the Insure Oklahoma program.

Quality of Care
• HB 2713 allows the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to implement a pay-for-performance program that offers financial incentives to health care providers and patients for incorporating evidence-based medicine guidelines and information therapy prescriptions.

Chain of Survival
• HB 2643 requires CPR training as a precondition for licensure as a child care facility.
• SB 923 encourages the placement of AEDs in schools and exempts schools from civil liability related to the use of an AED.
• SB 1918 appropriates up to $2.5 million in tobacco tax revenue to be used to fund ambulance and EMS services in rural and other at-risk areas.

Obesity Prevention
• HB 3395 allows the Department of Education to contract with regional school health coordinators to help schools implement best practices related to health and wellness programs.
• SB519 creates a pilot student fitness testing program.
• SB 1186 requires an additional 60 minutes per week of physical activity in grades K-5.
• SB 1612 creates a grant program to fund evidence-based obesity prevention programs in afterschool settings.
• As one high-ranking Health Department official put it, “Considering the reluctance by legislators to pass school mandates etc. . . . you have really done well this year.

• SB 1420 requires the Department of Health to establish a statewide coordinated system of care for stroke.

Tobacco Control
• HB 3341 requires all cigarettes sold in the state to be self-extinguishing. Oklahoma is now the 23rd state in the nation to require fire-safe cigarettes.

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