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FOR RELEASE: November 12, 2002
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
405/271-5601

National Health Report Card Notes Dip in Oklahoma’s Health

Oklahomans must take decisive action to improve their health.

That’s the reaction of state health officials to the UnitedHealth Foundation’s just released annual state health rankings showing that Oklahoma is now ranked 46th in the nation in its overall health. The rankings are a yearly analysis of the relative healthiness of the American population and provide a comprehensive assessment of the health of each state.

This is the thirteenth year the UnitedHealth Foundation has produced this annual report. The methodology determining the rankings includes such factors as prevalence of smoking, violent crime, high school graduation rates, and lack of health insurance, as well as cancer deaths, infectious disease and heart disease.

This year, a shift in three areas of methodology resulted in a significant drop in Oklahoma’s overall ranking: the measure “Children in Poverty” replaced “Unemployment,” the measure “Cancer Deaths” replaced “Cancer Cases,” and data sources were changed to determine “Support for Public Health.” UnitedHealth utilized these new measures in its 2002 report and has restated the data for previous years’ reports. Using the new methodology, Oklahoma’s ranking for 2001 was changed from 41st to 45th, and in 2002, using the new measures, Oklahoma’s overall ranking is 46th.

The report states Oklahoma has seen little improvement in the prevalence of smoking and a rise in the percentage of children in poverty. Other challenges include low support for public health care, high number of uninsured, a high heart disease rate and high total mortality. Successes noted in the last year were a reduction in infectious diseases and a reduction in infant mortality.

“This report is a call to action,” Beitsch said. “Now more than ever, we need to support public health and prevention. We’ve seen our state’s support for public health steadily decline this year. We simply can’t continue this trend. We must confront these challenges and provide the level of support necessary to assure that Oklahomans have the same opportunities for good health as other citizens in our country. They deserve nothing less.”

The report incorporates measures that reflect personal behaviors and decisions made by individuals that affect health status; the policy decisions made by community leaders regarding the availability of resources for health, disease promotion and access to medical services; and the community environment that impacts the health status of individuals and families. Data sources include the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Safety Council, U.S. Department of Education, and the U.S. Department of Labor.

For the complete report, “America’s Health: UnitedHealth Foundation State Health Rankings,” 2002 edition, visit UnitedHealth Foundation’s Web site at www.unitedhealthfoundation.org .

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