This week is National Public Health Week. It’s a fitting time to reflect on the progress our country has made to help people lead healthier lives. It’s also a great time to recognize the work that has yet to be done to continue to improve public health programs in our country.
When it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, forty-six million rural Americans are at a higher risk of death and shorter life expectancies. Higher rates of smoking, obesity, and high blood pressure, less physical activity, and less access to health care are just a few factors that decrease overall health in rural communities.
Whether I’m back home in Oklahoma or in Washington, I make it a point to work out every morning. Living a healthy lifestyle is important to me. Just because you live in a rural area, doesn’t mean you have to fall into the trap of an inactive lifestyle. Take control of your health today by spending time outside with your children, schedule an annual check-up with your primary care physician, or integrate fruits and vegetables into your daily diet. So much of our health is determined by what we eat. By integrating health and wellness coaches and nutritionists into our health care system, I’m hopeful that we can start to see an increase in healthy lifestyles in Oklahoma.
In Oklahoma, one of my main priorities is to reform and improve the Indian Health Service (IHS). There continues to be a disparity between the Native American community and the general population in life expectancy in part due to the rate of opioid abuse among Native Americans. As a member of the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee, I’m able to bring a tribal perspective to health care discussions. I’ve held opioid roundtables with IHS leaders in Oklahoma in order to bring quality, accessible health care to our communities.
I’m also working in Congress to bring awareness to men’s health issues. As a co-chair of the Men’s Health Caucus, I advocate for proactive health screenings. Currently, IHS has an office set up specifically to help with women’s health issues, but they don’t have a corresponding one for men’s health issues. A health office specific to men within IHS is authorized, but has never been created. It is my goal to ensure that men have access to the same resources when it comes to staying healthy that women already have within IHS.
We always can do more to improve the health of rural Americans, Oklahomans, Native Americans, and our country as a whole. In order to do that, we have to continue our efforts to provide resources and public health programs that benefit our citizens. This June, the Men’s Health Caucus will hold a morning workout session in Oklahoma City to highlight the importance of partaking in physical fitness in everyday life. Healthy lifestyles should be celebrated year round, not only just one week a year.