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FOR RELEASE: October 23, 2001
CONTACT: Dick Gunn
405/271-5601

National Health Report Card Notes Slight Improvement in OK's Health

The health of Oklahomans has improved slightly, according to a national report released today. “America's Health: UnitedHealth Foundation State Health Rankings” shows that Oklahoma has moved from 42nd to 41st in its overall health ranking.

The ranking provides a comprehensive, yearly analysis of the relative healthiness of the American population using information supplied by the U.S. Department of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Safety Council, U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Labor, and the American Cancer Society. The report also offers overall health comparisons for the past 12 years.

Despite the small change in its rank from last year, Oklahoma experienced a substantial change in its score, moving from 10.8 to 7.7 percent below the national average. This placed Oklahoma in the top five states with the largest positive increases noted in the past year, along with Arkansas, Alaska, Connecticut and Indiana.

Minnesota, New Hampshire and Utah held the top three slots as the healthiest states in America.

For the current ranking, the report noted improvements in Oklahoma's smoking prevalence, reduced from 25.2 percent to 23.3 percent; lowered violent crime from 539 to 508 offenses per 100,000 population; and a reduced incidence of infectious disease, from 42.4 to 32.0 cases per 100,000 population.

On the downside, the state's infant mortality rate increased from 8.0 to 8.5 deaths per 1,000 live births. In addition, the state's support for public health care continues to decrease. Oklahoma now ranks 46th in the nation, placing it 32 percent below the national average in public health care support.

“We are pleased this year's report showed a slight improvement in our state's health,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Leslie Beitsch. “We need to make more dramatic changes, however, if we want to continue to promote and protect the health of all Oklahomans.”

The report's comprehensive view of health is based on four essential elements: personal behaviors and decisions families and individuals make that affect their health status, decisions made by community policy leaders regarding community health, the community environment that shapes the possibilities for healthiness, and the ability to systematically gather information and employ data that monitor and measure variations within the health care system.

The report notes a 14-percent increase in the overall national composite score since 1990, although in the past year there was a 3.3 percent decrease in the composite score. Improvements in health noted nationally were a 6.3 percent decrease in the percentage of the population that smokes, a 36-percent decrease in motor-vehicle deaths, as well as a low national unemployment date.

The UnitedHealth Foundation is a nonprofit, private foundation. It publishes the state health rankings to increase awareness of critical public health issues. The rankings can be accessed through the foundation's Web site at www.unitedhealthfoundation.org.

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