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FOR RELEASE: March 31, 2000
CONTACT: Dick Gunn
405/271-5601

Clyde Benn Receives Wellness Award from State Health Department, Posthumously

State Health Commissioner J.R. Nida, M.D., presented the Oklahoma State Department of Health's (OSDH) Wellness Award posthumously to former Director of Minority Health Clyde Benn, who died Jan. 26. The OSDH Office of Minority Health (OMH) was activated July 1, 1994, under Benn's direction.

"Since the inception of the Office of Minority Health, outreach to minority and disenfranchised communities in Oklahoma has increased significantly based on increased numbers of minorities obtaining health services through statewide county health departments," said Nida. "We credit Clyde's leadership, concern and enthusiasm for minority health services for this and a number of successful initiatives."

Under Benn's leadership, the OMH initiated:

  • The statewide Minority Health Advisory Network consisting of 400 individuals who assist the OMH through six regional advisory groups representing the four quadrants of the state as well as Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Benn's leadership has prompted this network to support health education at the community level, particularly through church and civic groups.
  • An assessment of minority health status in Oklahoma through the network and local community organizations including diagnosing and investigating health hazards. Due to the disproportionate number of preventable deaths, diseases and disabilities in populations of color in Oklahoma, the following concerns were targeted:
    • Chronic diseases (heart disease, cancer, hypertension, diabetes)
    • Injury deaths (unintentional injuries, homicides, suicides, violence prevention, and accidents)
    • Men and women's health concerns, including Eldercare for older populations
    • Maternal and child health
    • Unwanted or unintended pregnancies
    • Teen pregnancy prevention
    • Alcohol and smoking prevention education
    • Health provider awareness education
  • The Office of Women's Health, now in development within the OSDH, was an offshoot of the Ethnic Women's Health Forum organized by Mr. Benn in 1998.
  • The OMH supports 11 community programs throughout the state that focus on disadvantaged and minority youth as an alternative to becoming involved in juvenile delinquency and other activities that may result in violence.

Benn was recognized nationally when he took on the role as state representative to the National Black Leadership Initiative on Cancer. Prior to being the Director of the OMH, Benn had been a family planning male health educator for the OSDH Family Planning Division. He joined OSDH in 1991, following 23 years in the U.S. Air Force, where he retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in the AWACS aircrew.

Benn received a bachelor's degree in economics and U.S. government from Howard University in 1968, and a master's degree in Special Studies, Investigative Techniques, from George Washington University. He obtained a master's in education in 1987 from Boston University, and was working on his doctorate in adult education from Oklahoma State University at the time of his death. Benn served his community as a member of Sigma Pi Phi fraternity, Leadership Oklahoma, a member of St. Philip Neri Catholic Church and numerous local and national organizations.

Born on Dec. 2, 1945, in the Port of Spain, Trinidad, West Indies, he immigrated to Harlem, New York, in 1950 with his mother. His wife of 34 years, Janice; children Derrick, Dexter, Jada and Jamila; numerous grandchildren, and a host of relatives and friends survive him. His daughter, Jamila, accepted the award on his behalf

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