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FOR RELEASE: December 6, 2001
CONTACT: Dick Gunn
405/271-5601

Sixth Annual State Health “Report Card” Released

The Oklahoma State Board of Health has released its sixth annual State of the State’s Health Report, which calls upon Oklahomans to work together to improve the public health system that provides those crucial services that protect and advance the health of all Oklahomans.

During a reception last evening at the Greenwood Cultural Center in Tulsa, a six-person panel representing the state’s public health and medical communities highlighted the findings from the Board of Health’s Year 2002 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. Oklahomans who smoke consume more cigarettes than much of the nation, purchasing 109 packs per person per year compared to the national average of 85 packs per person. The costs of this addiction total more than $1 billion annually to treat the diseases caused by tobacco use and to augment the nonmedical costs of tobacco, including employee absenteeism and lost productivity.
  • Obesity and lack of exercise continue to be risk factors of concern, particularly among Oklahoma’s youth. Obesity contributes significantly to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, certain cancers and other chronic diseases and conditions.
  • Poor health among Oklahoma’s adult working population results in limited activity days per month due to illness and/or injuries. This has a direct effect on Oklahoma’s economy, including the costs of health insurance, workers compensation rates, and the ability to attract industry to Oklahoma.
  • The report repeats a finding from last year’s report, which stated that economic status is the one risk that potentially has the greatest impact on health. Oklahoma has a higher proportion of its citizens in poverty than the national average, particularly for those under age 18. According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, 26.5 percent of Oklahoma children aged 0-6 live in poverty, compared to 23.1 percent for the U.S.
  • Oklahoma’s support for public health has decreased to 46th in the nation.

The report confirms that Oklahoma has a huge task ahead to improve its health status and suggests a focus on three key issues: tobacco use prevention, community partnerships, and increased support for public health.

  • To prevent youth from becoming addicted to nicotine and to help those already addicted to tobacco, the report supports a current proposal to increase the excise tax on a pack of cigarettes by one dollar to help subsidize the costs of treating tobacco-related diseases and to fund cessation services. In addition, the report also supports increased funding for youth compliance checks for tobacco sales in retail outlets; the repeal of preemption language from the state’s tobacco laws to allow cities and towns to enact stronger tobacco control ordinances; and increasing the availability of smoke-free public places to protect Oklahomans from the hazards of secondhand smoke.
  • The report encourages a partnership approach to health through the Turning Point initiative.
  • The report also emphasizes the state must provide increased support for Oklahoma’s public health system to continue preventive measures that are critical to a healthy population and to address new and threatening public health concerns such as bioterrorism.

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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