May 2020 Newsletter

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May Newsletter

May 28, 2020

Food Insecurity

COVID-19 presents new challenges for Oklahomans. That's why TSET recently allocated up to $1 million in funding to combat the food insecurity crisis in Oklahoma.

TSET Addresses Food Insecurity Amid Pandemic

The TSET Board of Directors recently allocated up to $1 million for new programs that will increase Oklahomans’ access to nutritious food as the state addresses the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding will address food insecurity -- storage of food in poor households -- and will create a new opportunity for projects that could include support for food access and distribution systems in Oklahoma or other programs that increase access to healthy foods. Read more. 

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TSET Healthy Living Prorgram 2.0 projects can include community gardens like this one in Nowata, Oklahoma. Nowata CAN, a member of the Community Advancement Network, is one of 35 organizations to receive a TSET HLP 2.0 grant.

Board Awards Healthy Living Program 2.0 Grants

The TSET Board of Directors awarded nearly $7 million to 35 organizations serving 37 counties through the TSET Healthy Living Program 2.0 program. The new grant program begins July 1.

“The second generation of TSET Healthy Living Program takes a comprehensive, community approach to health and looks for ways for targeted high-impact interventions,” said TSET Executive Director Julie Bisbee. “This initiative builds on years of success through multiple community based programs funded by TSET. It places a laser focus on communities with the greatest need.”

The five-year grants, renewable annually, will support communities in developing strategies, programs and policies to improve health by preventing or reducing tobacco use, improving nutrition, and increasing physical activity in an effort to decrease premature death in Oklahoma. The program prioritizes work in communities where health risk factors – tobacco use, poor nutrition and sedentary lifestyle -- are among the highest. Complete list of TSET HLP 2.0 awardees.


Episode 3 of the TSET Better Health podcast talks about role modeling and tobacco use, and covers the annual No Menthol Sunday event. Hosts are James Tyree and Cate Howell, both of TSET Health Communications.

Experts Discuss Role Modeling, Menthol Tobacco

Episode 3 of the TSET Better Health podcast discusses role modeling and tobacco use, as well as covers the annual No Menthol Sunday event. The episode features interviews with Adam Alexander, a researcher at the Oklahoma Tobacco Research Center; Theo Noel, executive director of Guiding Right; and firefighter Shaun Pryor who is featured in current Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline messaging. Tune in at or anywhere you listen to podcasts.

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This month, scientists at the Oklahoma Tobacco Research Center received three new innovative research grants.

Scientists Receive Over $7 Million in Grants

Three scientists at the Oklahoma Tobacco Research Center recently received funding from organizations that include the National Cancer Institute and the American Heart Association.

“These grants recognize the progress of OTRC scientists and OTRC faculty affiliates whose efforts currently include approximately 30 active studies with federal and other awards totaling over $30 million,” said Julie Bisbee, TSET executive director.

Helping with COVID-19
OTRC Co-director Michael Businelle, Ph.D., and Katherine Moxley, M.D., a gynecologic oncologist at Stephenson Cancer Center, received $220,000 in funding from the National Cancer Institute to use the Insight mHealth platform to determine if an app can be used to rapidly report COVID-19 symptoms in cancer patients. The two scientists hope the new symptom tracking app can help reduce risk and COVID-19 complications. The platform, supported by TSET and the Stephenson Cancer Center, allows researchers to build, test and rapidly launch technology-based mobile health assessments and intervention tools. Learn more.

Improving tobacco regulations
A $1.3 million grant received by Amy Cohn, Ph.D., may help create improved regulations on nicotine content and menthol flavoring in cigarettes. Cohn was awarded a three-year clinical trial by the Food and Drug Administration Center for Tobacco Products and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. She will examine the appeal and reinforcement of smoking menthol and non-menthol very low nicotine cigarettes in young adults who are new smokers. The project is being conducted in collaboration with experts at Brown University, the University of Minnesota, Wake Forest School of Medicine and the University of Vermont. 

Ending nicotine addiction in kids
Alayna Tackett, Ph.D., is part of a team of investigators who received a two-year, $5.5 million grant from the American Heart Association as part of the ENACT research initiative – End Nicotine Addiction in Children and Teens. She will work with colleagues from The Ohio State University on a four-part study called “VERIFY: Vaping’s End through Research and Innovation For Youth.” She will investigate behavioral and health effects of e-cigarettes and study the relationship between nicotine form, concentration and flavors on e-cigarette use, addiction, neurocognitive outcomes and pulmonary health. Read more.

Earlier this year, TSET renewed its funding to OTRC whose mission is to reduce the burden of disease in Oklahoma by addressing modifiable health risk factors such as tobacco use, sedentary lifestyle and poor diet. OTRC is one of three research centers funded by TSET.  

Helping teens

TSET will launch a statewide education campaign focused on Oklahoma youth ages 13-18. Teens are often the target when tobacco tastes like fruit or candy.

Coming Soon: Education Campaign for Teens

The TSET Board of Directors recently approved a contract with Rescue, a marketing agency focused on health campaigns, to launch a statewide education campaign focused on Oklahoma youth ages 13 through 18. Funding begins July 1 with the first messaging expected to begin in August 2020. The plan calls for an investment of $2.5 million a year over five years. Specific behavior change benchmarks will focus on tobacco use, prevention and cessation, and obesity prevention and reduction. Read more.

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Roe Warbes (left), Altus Schools superintendent, and Sabina Garrett, Altus Schools director of child nutrition, highlight the hydroponic grow system used in the Altus Junior High STEM program.

TSET Grant Helps Students Grow Healthy Foods

Altus Public Schools recently introduced their students studying agriculture to new hydroponic grow towers provided by a $30,000 Healthy Incentive Grant for Schools from TSET. The hydroponic grow towers – a method of growing food without soil – now is being incorporated into the school’s curriculum and is creating new learning opportunities for the next generation of Oklahoma farmers.

Roe Worbes, Altus Schools superintendent; Sabina Garrett, Altus Schools director of child nutrition; and several teachers all agree that the towers enhance the junior high’s STEM program and the high school’s agriculture program. “This has been a great project that involves students and staff, and we are able to use the produce that comes from the towers in our cafeterias to feed our students. That’s exciting,” Garrett said. Watch on