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NE OKC gaining wellness center



OCCHD seeks partners to provide space at the Regional Health and Wellness Center for primary care, mental health, dental and other medical services, as well as fitness programs for children and seniors, according to Gary Cox, department director. So far, he said, the public response has been positive since the center was announced June 30, with people having called the department wanting to know more about partnership opportunities.

The regional center will be located near the intersection of Interstates 35 and 44, where it will be open to all Oklahoma County residents. The property site will include care services space, sports fields, extensive parking, walking trails, a 400-seat auditorium and an operations center for public health emergencies, according to a press release.

The center is part of the OCCHD’s recent “Wellness Now” initiative to target unhealthy lifestyle habits that cause serious health issues, such as obesity and heart disease. The department decided to build the center in ZIP code 73111 because of needed attention in the area, where the rate of heart disease deaths is 10 times higher than the surrounding city, Cox said.

According a report released Thursday by the Trust for America’s Health, obesity in the U.S. has become an even bigger problem, with rates having grown from 15 percent in 1980 to 34 in 2008. Oklahoma, which had a rate of 12.4 percent 15 years ago, now has an obesity rate of 31.4 percent, the seventh highest in the country. Mississippi remains the highest since 2007, at 34.4 percent.

Oklahoma is one of the 12 states whose rates have now risen above 30 percent, as well as one of the three all located in the South, where rates grew the fastest.

Becoming overweight or obese involves a combination of factors, including physical inactivity and lack of nutrition, according to health department spokeswoman Vicki Monks.

“We feel a sense of urgency here at the health department, because it’s something we see every day,” Monks said. “We have to move from targeting sickness and disease to a focus on prevention and wellness, taking the steps that will keep people from developing these chronic diseases on the scale that they are now.”

The report says Oklahoma also has the third-highest rate of physical inactivity, with nearly 31 percent of its population choosing not to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day. Public health experts in the report recommend walking at least 10,000 steps, or about 5 miles, and eating five to 13 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

Those interested in becoming a private or public partner of the wellness center can call 425-4332.

Photos by Gazette reporter Alex Ewald

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