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For Release: Dec. 6, 2011 – Pamela Williams, Office of Communications – 405/271-5601                                                                                 

Oklahoma Drops in State Health Ranking

The United Health Foundation today released its annual state health ranking scorecard which indicates that Oklahoma’s ranking dropped by two points, scoring 48th in the nation for 2011, down from 46th in 2010.

The determinants contributing to the lower score this year include the high percentage of Oklahoma children in poverty, an increase in the number of Oklahoma adults with diabetes, a high prevalence of Oklahoma adults who are obese, and the continued prevalence of smoking among Oklahoma adults. Other contributors to the lower score were the limited availability of primary care physicians in the state, the low use of pregnant women seeking prenatal care during their first trimester, and the high number of poor mental health days reported by Oklahomans.

Scoring strongly was Oklahoma’s low incidence of infectious disease, a low prevalence of binge drinking, and percent of students who graduate from high school.

“We are disappointed, but not surprised by this report,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Terry Cline. “Through the legislatively-endorsed Oklahoma Health Improvement Plan and the Oklahoma Children’s Health Plan, our state’s public health system has marshaled its resources to address key health status indicators that prevent us from being a healthier state. We are making progress in some areas – for example, we have seen a historic decline in smoking so that we now have more former smokers in Oklahoma than current smokers. We also have an ambitious program underway to provide ‘Certified Healthy’ status for businesses, schools and communities to offer health improvement opportunities. In addition, the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust has embarked on an innovative project to provide funding that will allow many communities to develop local approaches to reverse the trend of obesity in our state.”

Even with these projects in place, Cline noted that health policies continue to be a significant challenge to Oklahoma’s health improvement.  “Our state’s health policies should promote healthy living and empower our citizens to make healthy choices,” he said. “Unfortunately, that’s not always the case and our progress is slower than it should be.”

Cline noted two legislative proposals that are current recommendations of the Oklahoma Health Improvement Plan: restoring the rights of local communities to pass tobacco use prevention policies that are stronger than state law, and educating Oklahoma’s youth to lead a healthy lifestyle by providing health education classes for students in the sixth through eighth grades. “If we believe that knowledge is power, we should empower our youth to make healthier decisions for themselves, and drive decisions to the local level when possible,” Cline emphasized. “These proposals are excellent examples of policies that endorse the concept of making the healthy choice the easy choice. Until these legislative priorities are passed, thousands of lives will needlessly be lost each year in Oklahoma.” 

For more information on the Oklahoma Health Improvement Plan, visit www.health.ok.gov. For additional information on the United Health Foundation’s 2011 state health rankings, visit www.unitedhealthfoundation.org.

 

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