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FOR RELEASE: February 14, 2003
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

2003 State of the State’s Health Report Released Today
Prescription for Public Health Improvement

The Oklahoma State Board of Health has released its 2003 State of the State’s Health Report, Prescription for Public Health Improvement, which provides updates on the underlying causes of poor health, behavioral risk factors, and the consequences of our poor health status as a state.

This is the seventh year the Board of Health has issued an annual “report card” on the state’s health. On a positive note, this year’s report identifies key public health programs that have successfully impacted Oklahoma’s health, including the Turning Point program, water fluoridation, tobacco use prevention, Children First, and children’s immunizations, among others.

The report’s findings include the following:

Underlying Causes of Poor Health

  • Poverty continues to plague Oklahomans and contributes to our health disparity burden. The percent of Oklahomans living in poverty in 2001 was 15.1 compared to a national average of 11.7.
  • Lack of health care coverage contributes to poor health status by discouraging people from seeking early, preventive care. In Oklahoma, 18.3 percent reported not having health care coverage in 2001 compared to 14.6 percent for the U.S.
  • Compounding Oklahoma’s low personal income levels, percent of children living in poverty, and high rates of no health care coverage is our low rate of expenditures on prevention and public health compared to the rest of the nation. The United Health Foundation 2002 State Health Rankings show Oklahoma ranked 46th in the nation for public health care support.

Behavioral Risk Factors

  • Oklahomans smoke cigarettes at high rates, tend to exercise less, and obesity is a particular problem within some ethnic populations. We also are behind the nation in rates of seat belt use and helmet use to prevent injuries and deaths. These behavioral risk factors result in a disproportionate burden of death, disease, and disability.

Consequences

  • We have an excessive death rate in our working population (years of potential life lost). According to 1999 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 9,000 years of potential life were lost per 100,000 population in Oklahoma.
  • We have a relatively unhealthy workforce, with the average Oklahoma worker having 4.6 days per month of limited activity due to injury or illness - a figure 31percent higher in 2001 than the nation.

Progress

  • Citizens across the state continue to positively impact health through local Turning Point partnerships by identifying local priorities, developing local solutions and sharing resources to implement innovative local heath improvement plans.
  • Among high school students, tobacco use declined from 42.1 percent in 1999 to 31.9 percent in 2002.
  • Children First, a program with a mission to produce healthy family members and enhance a family’s ability to care for itself, is making a difference. The United Health Foundation 2002 State Health Rankings lists as one of Oklahoma’s few successes an improvement in infant mortality.
  • Oklahoma’s rank has improved from 41st in 2001 to 29th in 2002.
  • Since the first Oklahoma community fluoridated its public water system in 1953, the number of people in the state receiving the benefits of fluoridated water has steadily increased. But from 1992 to 2000, there has been a very significant increase from 58 percent to 74.6 percent.
  • The National Immunization Survey shows that 77 percent of Oklahoma children ages 19 months through 35 months were fully immunized against seven diseases in 2001. This represents a five percent increase over the previous year’s 72 percent and vaults Oklahoma’s ranking from 49th to 32nd in the nation.

Recommendations

  • Tobacco and nicotine addiction prevention through increase cigarette taxes.
  • Clean indoor air by limiting smoking in public places.
  • Increased funding for preventive services by leveraging Medicaid dollars.
  • Establish a task force to address and eliminate health disparities in our population.
  • Develop and implement public health competencies and performance standards.

The 2003 State of the State’s Health Report can be found on the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s Web site at http://www.health.state.ok.us/board/state/index.html.

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