Expanding health and nutrition education for Oklahomans of all ages

Expanding health and nutrition education for Oklahomans of all ages

Fifteen percent of Oklahoma adolescents are considered overweight and an additional 12% are obese. The state has the fifth-highest rate of obesity for youths ages 10-17. Among adults, 35% are considered overweight, and an additional 33% are obese. For adults, Oklahoma ranks 47th nationally for overall health and 48th for obesity. Fifteen percent of Oklahomans live in poverty, compared to 12.3% nationally. Sixteen percent of Oklahoma households are food insecure.

Poor diet and physical inactivity increase the risk of obesity, which in turn increases the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In Oklahoma, it’s estimated that 15,500 lives could be saved annually through better prevention and treatment of chronic disease. Food insecurity is linked to lower reading and math scores and lower high-school graduation rates for youth. For the adult population, food insecurity decreases educational attainment, increases healthcare costs and weakens the labor force.

Community Nutrition Education Programs (CNEP), a service of Oklahoma State University Extension, combines the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) funding to reach low-income individuals, families, school-age youth and pregnant teens. Paraprofessionals and Extension educators deliver research-based, hands-on learning related to diet quality, food safety, physical activity, food security and food resource management. CNEP also supports community grant projects across the state with a focus on policy, systems and environmental changes. In 2019, CNEP provided nutrition education to 43,585 participants and indirectly reached an estimated 9,086 family members of the participants.

Among adult graduates of the program, 92% improved in one or more diet quality areas such as eating fruits and vegetables, drinking fewer sugary beverages or cooking dinner at home. And 74% improved in one or more physical activity areas like exercising for at least 30 minutes a day or making small changes to be more active. In addition, 78% improved in one or more food resource management practices including comparing food prices, planning meals or making a list before shopping.

Among youth graduates, 78% improved their abilities to choose healthy foods and 34% improved their physical activity practices.