TSET program all about healthy living | News

Doug Walton sees how Muskogee County works on being healthier.

TSET program all about healthy living

Doug Walton of Muskogee County Health Department’s Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust Healthy Living Program talks about the importance of wearing a bicycle helmet to Oktaha Elementary School students during an assembly at the school this past week in the cafeteria. 

As the coordinator of the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) Healthy Living Program at the Muskogee County Health Department, Walton’s department coordinates with cities, towns, schools, businesses and other organizations on healthy living.

“We spend time with different organizations on assessing their policies and practices to support healthy options,” Walton said. “We help identify things they can try to do that won’t be too difficult or costly to make healthy options available such as having a drinking water dispenser available or allowing their employees to walk on their breaks.”

The local Healthy Living Program started in 2015 along with 63 other counties in the state. The program was formed when the grant for physical activity and nutrition and another grant from the tobacco settlement were merged into one. TSET was originally formed in the 1990s after Oklahoma and 40 other states sued the tobacco industry.

Oklahoma, Walton said, was the only state to amend the constitution that the money from the settlement would go toward healthy living.

The local program’s work is ongoing.

Walton estimates 50 businesses, 30 schools, 16 child care providers, 20 churches and 13 towns have been certified healthy by the health department last year.

He fondly talks about Dal-Tile as an example of his work.

“We helped them be a tobacco-free property,” he said. “We were able to provide their employees the resources to reduce or quit tobacco use.”

Walton doesn’t work alone. Kristen Carollo and Angel Tillman also are in the county’s healthy living program. Carollo works with businesses, churches and Head Start programs. Tillman works with schools and child care providers. Walton deals with cities, towns as well as schools.

Walton points to the city of Muskogee being healthier by adding six miles of bicycle trails since 2015.

And just this past week, Walton was in Oktaha speaking to elementary school students about bike riding safety and walking to and from school.

Walton also likes working at child care centers.

“They have home-based gardens that teach children where food comes from,” he said.

Walton, who operated the Farmers Market until this year, doesn’t stay idle for very long. He’s either going to this school or a business to talk about healthy living.

“We’re always busy,” he said. “We go to these organizations, and we have a checklist we go through for the different things they can go through to create a healthier workplace, child care center or church.”