OKLAHOMA CITY —
Cline is a former state secretary of health and commissioner of the state Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services who left those positions in 2006 to become the head of the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Cline took over as state health commissioner after completing work as health attache at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, where he advised the U.S. ambassador, the Iraqi minister of health and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on health-related challenges in Iraq.
At the top of Cline’s list for improving Oklahomans’ health is reducing their rate of smoking. Oklahoma, which ranked 48th in the nation in the percentage of adult smokers in 2011, was 47th last year. About 26 percent of Oklahomans, or 745,000 adults, still smoke.
“We have to drive down this smoking rate,” Cline said. Oklahoma has experienced a statistical decrease in tobacco use over the last decade, and 2011 was the first year that there were more former smokers in the state than current smokers.
“That’s important,” Cline said. But the state still lags behind the progress experienced by other states and has been well above the national average for smoking for the past 11 years.
Statistics provided by the United Health Foundation show the state ranks high in the number of cancer and cardiovascular deaths, diseases Cline said are linked to smoking. The state averages about 200 cancer deaths per 100,000 residents, but the rate of cardiovascular deaths is an alarming 330 per 100,000 residents — 48th in the nation.
“One in four Oklahomans smoke, and it’s the number one preventable cause of death,” Cline said.
Obesity is another issue that has a negative impact on the state’s overall health. Almost one in three adults in the state, or 888,000 people, is classified as obese and at an increased risk for ill health.