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Board Approves Proposal to Bring More Doctors to Rural Oklahoma, Fallin's Fitness Center Proposal

OKLAHOMA CITY (Feb. 16, 2012) -- The board of the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust on Thursday approved two unsolicited proposals that seek to improve the health of Oklahomans. 

The first proposal works to recruit and retain physicians to establish practices in rural Oklahoma. The second proposal approved Thursday helps remodel the state Capitol’s smoking room into a fitness center. 

In a unanimous vote, members of the TSET board approved a $1.8 million five-year pilot program that will create a partnership to put more primary care physicians in rural and underserved areas. 

The proposal creates a partnership between the Physician Manpower Training Commission, TSET and the Oklahoma Health Care Authority. 

Under the program, rural doctors will enhance medical care in underserved areas and see Medicaid patients. TSET dollars will help Oklahoma leverage additional federal matching dollars. 

“TSET was created with the mission of improving the health of Oklahomans, in both urban and rural areas,” said Kenneth D. Rowe, chair of the TSET Board. “This partnership allows Oklahoma to leverage resources to provide access to medical care to Oklahomans in rural areas across the state.”

Oklahoma is 50th in the number of primary care physicians per capita, according to the American Medical Association. Only 11 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties meet the national standard of having one physician for every 3,500 people, according to the Physician Manpower Training Commission. 

The Oklahoma program is similar to a loan repayment program in Texas. In that program, a physician choosing to practice primary care in a rural area can get up to $160,000 for a 4-year service obligation. 

Board members also approved a $38,500 proposal submitted by Gov. Mary Fallin’s office to turn the state Capitol’s smoking room into a fitness center. The proposal includes a $20,000 match from the Oklahoma Hospital Association. 

In her State of the State address, Fallin issued an executive order to prohibit tobacco use on state-owned or leased property. The order takes effect in six months. 

“Supporting efforts to improve the environment at our state’s Capitol helps increase awareness about the need to improve the health of our state,” said Tracey Strader, executive director of TSET. “We applaud Governor Mary Fallin’s leadership on this issue and look forward to being an active partner in this effort.”

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TSET, a constitutional endowment trust committed to improving the health of the Oklahomans, was created by an overwhelming majority vote of the people in 2000. The foresight of Oklahoma voters is beginning to make a substantial impact through community grants, in combination with the other research and programs funded by TSET, including the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline (1-800-QUIT-NOW). Funding from TSET will be available to create better lives through better health for generations to come. To learn more go to: www.tset.ok.gov.