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TSET Continues to Make Massive Strides to Improve Public Health in Oklahoma

Friday, November 18, 2022

The Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) is making a real difference across the state — especially in rural areas. TSET works to reduce Oklahoma’s leading causes of preventable death — tobacco and obesity — by supporting projects that ensure Oklahomans can live healthy lifestyles. In underserved counties throughout the state, TSET-funded physicians are practicing in rural areas, and many stay long term. Rural communities are repairing old playground equipment and building walking trails for the first time in years. In other communities, people are getting access to fresh fruits and vegetables at affordable prices due to grants from TSET. Here are just a few ways TSET works for rural Oklahoma.

Oklahoma Physician Loan Repayment Program

The financial burden of medical school often prevents physicians from practicing in rural or underserved areas. Through TSET’s partnership with the Health Care Workforce Training Commission, physicians in rural areas are eligible for the Oklahoma Physician Loan Repayment Program. By practicing in underserved areas of Oklahoma, physicians who participate in the program for up to four years can receive up to $200,000 in student loan repayment assistance.

Since the program began, doctors in the program have conducted more than 566,000 patient visits. Most importantly, more than half of the physicians have chosen to continue practicing in these rural or underserved areas of the state, providing needed long-term access to care.

Grant Funding for Schools and Communities

Outside the medical community, grants are available for schools and local programs encouraging healthy lifestyles. A school in Drumright used the Healthy Schools Incentive Grant to build a trike track in their playground to promote activity among younger kids, while Granite used the same grant to install new water fountains. Vinita took advantage of the TSET Healthy Communities Incentive Grant and built a wheelchair-accessible fitness area. Noble chose to put grant funds toward a community garden. All of these grants have inspired Oklahomans to adopt healthy behaviors and continue to provide new options to be active and eat better.

New Grant Opportunities

The opportunities don’t stop there. TSET grants help make a direct impact on the lives of Oklahomans — for this generation and the next. For example, TSET is opening a new funding opportunity for Youth Character Development programs for grades 3–8. These funds provide education opportunities to strengthen healthy habits in young Oklahomans. Healthy habits learned early last into adulthood, supporting TSET’s efforts to reduce obesity and tobacco use. TSET’s Food Impact Grants have worked to combat food insecurities across Oklahoma, facilitating more than 100,000 meals to seniors, youth and needy families in the state’s most vulnerable areas. Through new Discovery Grants and Targeted Achievement Grants, TSET is providing opportunities for projects impacting health across the state.  

Recently, Oklahoma’s adult smoking rate dropped from 19.1% to 16.9%, the lowest smoking rate ever recorded for our state. This reduction in smoking improves  Oklahoma’s tobacco use ranking from 42nd to 38th nationally, showing the progress being made in our state. While the reduction is notable, there’s still work to be done. The Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline encourages Oklahomans to quit smoking by providing free nicotine replacement therapy, quit coaching and community support, all funded by TSET.

For more than 20 years, TSET has worked to improve public health across all 77 counties in Oklahoma, and there are no signs of stopping. Have an idea for how TSET can benefit public health in your community? Connect with a grantee near you or visit to get started.

View the Rural Health Information Sheet here.

Last Modified on Mar 29, 2023