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FOR RELEASE: February 22, 2001
CONTACT: Dick Gunn
405/271-5601

Fifth Annual State Health "Report Card" Released Today

The State Board of Health released its fifth annual State of the State's Health report today with a plea: We are at a turning point in Oklahoma's future health and well-being…and unless we act together, now, with a planned approach, we may be unable to reverse the trends of poor health we have been experiencing as a state.

During a briefing at the State Capitol, a five-person panel representing the state public health and medical communities highlighted the results of the Board of Health's Year 2001 report and suggested several solutions to a number of the state's health problems.

Among the report's findings:

  • Oklahomans continue to be plagued by high rates of nicotine addiction. The smoking rates for Oklahoma's adult and teen smokers exceed the national smoking rates for both.
  • Oklahomans are significantly obese, increasing our risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other chronic diseases and conditions.
  • Seventy-eight percent of births to Oklahoma's teens are unintended. Chances for these children living in poverty are three times greater than for mothers who delay childbearing until after age 20.
  • Over the past five years, Oklahoma has consistently been above the national average for persons reporting no health insurance. Lack of health insurance makes access to adequate health care much more difficult.
  • Oklahoma's rate of increase for personal income has not kept pace with the national rate of increase. Economic health is directly related to Oklahoma's overall health status.

On a positive note, the report found that deaths due to motor vehicle crashes have actually decreased, due in part to Oklahoma's increasing rate of seat belt use.

The report confirms that Oklahoma has a huge task ahead to improve its health status; however, it suggests that there are prevention measures available to help reverse the state's negative health trends. One recommendation is clinical prevention, especially when public health officials and clinicians work hand-in-hand, as with the Oklahoma State Medical Association's Physicians' Campaign for Healthier Oklahoma. In addition, the report noted statewide initiatives that have proven their effectiveness in outcomes studies, such as the Children First program and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).

The report also recommended increased support for public health and clinical prevention, yet it pointed out that increased funding alone will not be enough to reverse negative health trends. The report suggested that coordinated prevention efforts that emphasize a shared responsibility through community-based partnerships, such as Oklahoma's Turning Point initiative, will have a profound impact on public health.

Participating in today's presentation were Dr. Jay A. Gregory, President, Oklahoma State Board of Health; Dr. Gordon H. Deckert, Board of Health member; Dr. Robert J. Weedn, President, Oklahoma State Medical Association; Valerie Williams, Chair, Oklahoma Turning Point Council; and Jerry Regier, Acting Director, Oklahoma State Department of Health.

The State of the State's Health report can be found on the World Wide Web at http://www.health.state.ok.us/board/state/.

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