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10:18 am
Tue December 11, 2012

Oklahoma Health Ranking: Better, But Still Well Below Average

Oklahoma has improved its state health ranking according to the United Health Foundation, which released its annual “America’s Health Rankings” scorecard today. For overall health, Oklahoma is ranked 43rd in 2012. Over the last several years, Oklahoma’s ranking has ranged from 46th to 49th.

“This year’s report marks a significant and dramatic improvement that we don’t take lightly,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Terry Cline. “We recognize and support opportunities occurring within communities, businesses, organizations, faith-based groups and others in the private sector that help make the healthy choice the easy choice and ultimately improve the health status of all Oklahomans.”

Health indicators scoring strongly for Oklahoma were improvements in the infant mortality rate, up-to-date immunization coverage for children 19 months to 35 months, a low incidence of infectious disease cases, an improvement in the percent of persons without health insurance, and an improvement in the percent of children under age 18 living in poverty.

On the downside, a high prevalence of smoking, sedentary lifestyle, obesity, diabetes, limited availability of primary care physicians, and a high rate of cardiovascular disease deaths continue to be health challenges for the state.

The United Health Foundation says new data methodology implemented for the 2012 report has caused it to retroactively calculate Oklahoma’s 2011 score, changing it from 48th to 46th.  “While the late change in last year’s score for Oklahoma is a bit confusing, it is important to note that public health issues are complex and multifaceted and difficult to reduce to a simple overall ranking,” said Cline. “We view each year’s report as a status assessment of efforts in place that empower Oklahomans to make healthy choices.”

As an example, Cline pointed to Gov. Fallin’s Executive Order issued last February prohibiting all tobacco use on all Oklahoma state property. “While protecting the health of state employees as well as citizens visiting state-owned properties, this ban is expected to reduce health care costs for state employees, decrease employee absenteeism and increase employee productivity, for a cost savings of an estimated $5.2 million each year,” Cline noted.