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For Release: Dec.10, 2009 
Contact: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
(405) 271-5601

Oklahoma Health Improvement Plan Launched Today                

A plan to transform Oklahoma from a state that consistently reports a poor health status to a state that demonstrates a dynamic process allowing Oklahomans to lead healthier lives was unveiled today at the State Capitol by public health leaders, state legislators, and representatives from a variety of Oklahoma interests.

The Oklahoma Health Improvement Plan outlines numerous key priorities and outcomes that will support health improvement throughout the state. The plan was mandated by the Oklahoma Legislature in 2008 through SJR-41, which directed the State Board of Health to prepare a report that outlines a plan for the “general improvement of the physical, social and mental well being of all people in Oklahoma through a high-functioning public health system.”      

The State Board of Health convened a broad-based group of health leaders, state legislators, and representatives of business, labor, tribes, academia, non-profit health organizations, state and local governments, professional organizations and private citizens to develop the plan. During this past year, the group conducted “listening sessions” in 10 communities throughout the state to seek input on what Oklahomans believe are their most crucial health needs. Their comments were included in the development of the plan.

“Current national state health rankings place Oklahoma at 49th. We find this unacceptable,” said State Board of Health President Barry Smith. “We recognize that Oklahomans face a variety of barriers to good health due to poverty, lack of insurance, limited access to primary care, and risky personal health behaviors associated with diet, physical activity and smoking. Even so, Oklahoma’s citizens deserve the same opportunities for improving their health as their neighbors in other states. If Oklahoma was able to simply match the national average in health status indicators, 5,320 Oklahoma lives would be saved every year.”  

The Oklahoma Health Improvement Plan addresses improving health outcomes through targeted “flagship initiatives” of children’s health improvement, tobacco use prevention, and obesity reduction. The plan also looks at the complex issue of increasing the public health infrastructure’s effectiveness and accountability. Finally, the plan discusses approaches to addressing the social determinants of health – those factors such as poverty, education, access to health services, housing and transportation – that help determine whether individuals stay healthy or become ill.     The plan confirms that Oklahoma ranks near the bottom in multiple key health status indicators measured at the state and national levels, including Oklahoma’s infant mortality rate, which has consistently ranked above the national average since 1992. “It is tragic that an infant has a better chance of survival in almost any state other than Oklahoma,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Terry Cline.

The plan also notes that Oklahoma leads much of the nation with deaths due to heart disease. Two-thirds of Oklahomans are either overweight or obese, with Oklahoma ranked as the 6th worst state for adult obesity. Oklahoma’s prevalence rate for smoking in 2008 was 24.7 percent. “The transformation of Oklahoma to a healthy state will not be possible until we have major reductions in tobacco use, increase our physical activity, and make better food choices,” Cline emphasized. “It’s really quite simple: eat better, move more and be tobacco free.”

“The Oklahoma Health Improvement Plan challenges the status quo,” Cline continued. “We accept this challenge knowing that there are concerned health leaders, corporate and business representatives, faith-based organizations, tribal leaders, professional organizations, local community groups, and private citizens who recognize we must work collaboratively in order to make the changes necessary to improve our state’s health. Every Oklahoman has a stake and a role in improving our state health outcomes.”

The Oklahoma Health Improvement Plan is available for viewing online at

http://www.ok.gov/health/documents/OHIP-viewing.pdf. (3M .pdf, lower resolution for quicker loading and viewing)

http://www.ok.gov/health/documents/OHIP-printing.pdf (7M .pdf, higher resolution for better quality printing)

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