Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

The Great Seal of the Choctaw Nation


The Lifetime Legacy crew consist of Naomi Franklin, Resource Technician, Melanie Jones, Community Coordinator, Todd Baughman, Program Manager and Veronica Boatright, Data Analyst

“Going lean,” and “Get fit,” have become popular phrases around the Choctaw Nation and the United States in recent times. People everywhere are becoming aware of the risks and dangers of poor health.

In light of that fact, the federal government has teamed up with the Choctaw Nation to provide a cardiovascular disease prevention grant known as Lifetime Legacy. This grant, in the fourth year of a five-year cycle, is charged with combating cardiovascular complications in Native Americans.

Lifetime Legacy is the continuation of a program named Core Capacity. This program was committed to “building partnerships, doing community action surveys, community needs assessments, seeing what the community was ready for and where they were ready, as far as change [and] getting healthy,” explained Program Manager Todd Baughman.

Heart issues are very common among Native Americans, but many of the risk factors that cause these problems can be avoided by implementing small and simple lifestyle practices. Some risk factors include obesity, sedentary lifestyle and smoking.

“Besides it being a hereditary disease, all of them [risk factors] are changeable. You can alter those risk factors. All of them can be changed by you, and Lifetime Legacy is trying to promote people to do that,” declared Baughman. Through various mediums and programs, Lifetime Legacy is on a mission to “change the risk factors to try and decrease that prevalence,” continued Baughman.

One of the ways that Lifetime Legacy has begun to aid Choctaw Nation is by providing the communities with education on heart disease and ways to improve their health through health fairs and presentations.

The Lifetime Legacy team, made up of four employees, has traveled to places such as Jones Academy, employee health fairs, community center health fairs and Outreach at the Beach. They have handed out healthy recipe cards as a well as taught classes in Jones academy, the Talihina Lions Club as well as all the schools within the 10.5 counties of Choctaw Nation.

“Instead of just reaching out to adults, like they did in the past, we are starting with children. Because if you start at an earlier age, it can help prevention when they get older,” said Data Analyst, Veronica Boatright as she explained the recent focus on a younger generation.

Focusing on the children has been a successful endeavor thus far for the crew. We “got a really good response from kids… they get so excited and so enthused,” mentioned Community Coordinator Melanie Jones as she remembered the presentations at Jones academy.

Along with the presentation of information at various locations, Baughman and his team have plans for various Choctaw entities, one being the Choctaw Travel Plazas. We are “providing the option for people to pick the healthier choice,” said Baughman. It is his hope that the plazas will place healthier alternatives in the more visible and high-traffic areas, encouraging the patrons to substitute a healthy snack for sweets on occasion.

Even in the smallest ways, by just changing the position of merchandise, the Legacy crew helps to aid Choctaws to longer, healthier lives. We are helping them have that option, and hopefully they will take it, continued Baughman.

Along with the changes in Travel Plazas, Lifetime Legacy is working with administration all across the Choctaw Nation. They have been collaborating with administration of the hospital to provide incentives for employees to exercise and eat healthy, as well as encouraging the vending machines to be stocked with healthy alternatives.

Perhaps one of the largest and most complicated projects up the sleeves of the Legacy crew would be the healthy cooking videos titled “Cooking with the Council,” currently featuring Councilman Anthony Dillard and Assistant Chief Gary Batton. These videos allow prominent members of the Choctaw community to demonstrate how to prepare meals and snacks that will taste great and help the body. Messages of moderation and small steps fill the videos in an effort to give viewers paths to a gradual and permanent lifestyle change.

Lifetime Legacy does not use an elaborate set, but uses a common kitchen as the studio to simulate the average Choctaw’s situation. They use everyday ingredients that will be found around a common home. It is their hope that with this simple approach, more people with be inclined to use the information provided.

Along with the cooking videos, they have also produced exercising videos with the help of the Hugo Wellness Center.

Lifetime Legacy does all the production in-house, from the shooting to the editing. It is their hope to create a multitude of videos featuring more of the council and Chief Pyle that will be displayed in the waiting rooms of various locations of Choctaw services.

They are in the process of making commercials for various Choctaw programs, and ideally, they would be able to produce DVDs that would contain videos divided by Choctaw commercials to be viewed around the nation. . “Instead of watching cable television, we can highlight our own programs,” Said Boatright.

The production of these videos is a considerable task for the team. To go along with their other duties, they must spend many hours researching healthy recipes, modifying other recipes to make them healthy, scheduling video shoots, shooting and editing video as well as distributing the finished product.

Since the activation of the Going Lean initiative, Lifetime Legacy has been given a broader range of resources and connections. According to Baughman, Going Lean is a task force that has about 20 or 30 Choctaw programs that allows everybody to network. “Whenever we became part of Going Lean, that opened up the doors,” mentioned Baughman.

Where they used to have to work relatively alone, they can now work with many other departments because the task force unites them in a common goal, which is to make healthier Choctaws. Occasionally they work in areas that seem unrelated to heart health, but in reality, any sort of obesity prevention and active lifestyle encouraging effort will help prevent heart problems. With that fact in place, they are able to branch out from strictly heart issues.

This cooperation is notably beneficial to the Legacy team, as well as the programs with which they have teamed. “We need to realize that we are all in the same family, we all work for the Choctaw Nation and we can all come together for the greater good of the people we serve,” declared Baughman as he explained how when any program promotes health, it helps meet the goal of Lifetime Legacy.

As a program, you can’t do it all on your own, so you try to find other programs that are trying to reach the same goals you are, said Boatright as she explained how this cooperation among programs has aided Lifetime Legacy. “Now that [the issue] is tribal wide everybody is on board… you feel like you have more support,” she continued.

Working closely with other departments among the tribe, Lifetime Legacy has made strides in creative ways to make a healthier Choctaw Nation. The team as a whole attributes much of this success to Joe Bray, the Director of Behavioral Health and Kari Hearod, the Deputy Director of Behavioral Health, who oversees their operation and allows them many resources, along with flexibility to experiment with new and innovative ways of accomplishing an age-old goal.

If you have any question for Lifetime Legacy and how they can aid you in preventing cardiovascular disease, call 918-426-5700.