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Mayoral candidates debate Tulsa’s health status

Mayoral candidates Dewey Bartlett and Kathy Taylor recently debated Tulsa topics concerning healthy living on Oct. 28 at the TCC Creative Center.

Issues of debate included poverty, education, transportation and tobacco use. The candidates agreed on many of the discussed issues.

Both candidates discussed the problem of food deserts in Tulsa; areas where residents have little access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

“Food deserts are imperative to obesity,”  Taylor said, “because people do not have access to healthy fruits and vegetables.”

Bartlett agreed, saying the solution to food deserts is improving transportation systems and providing more options to help Tulsans affected to make healthier decisions.

Both candidates agreed tobacco was an immediate issue to be addressed. Governor Mary Fallin is looking to give local communities the authority to ban tobacco use.

Due to one in five kids smoking, Taylor said she hopes to encourage “peer-to-peer” leadership in an effort to end underage tobacco use.

Taylor is in support of giving local communities the authority to choose where tobacco use should be banned.

“We should not wait on the state when addressing tobacco use,” said Taylor. “Instead, we need to do what we can now, which is education for teenagers. I do not want to wait on another government when I know Tulsa has a need that needs to be addressed.”

Bartlett is seeing progress in the community concerning tobacco use.

“2,500 people in the community have seen tobacco use as a problem,” said Bartlett, “and to me that is success.”

Economic growth and the health of a community have a strong correlation, according to both candidates.

“A healthy population is a more productive work force,” said Taylor. “For jobs to come to Tulsa, they look at the health of our community.”

Bartlett also had ideas for healthier living in the Tulsa community.

“We need to have a continuation of the trail systems,” said Bartlett. “More bicycle trails and park programs will lead to a lifestyle change and ultimately a healthy community.”

Regarding childhood obesity, Bartlett emphasized the importance of education. He stressed introducing more exercise in school systems, saying the amount of exercise seen in schools today is “lacking.”

Taylor reviewed her recent study that linked childhood obesity with poverty. The results of this study resulted in Taylor presenting solutions involving education in parks and community centers, as well as addressing food deserts.

Both candidates agreed that the city of Tulsa needs to partner with churches, universities and nonprofits to help people see doctors and receive nutritional education.

Tulsa Board of Health sponsored the debate and health forum. Early voting began Nov. 7, with the general election being held Nov. 12.

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