Oklahoma drops to third-unhealthiest state
BY SHANNON MUCHMORE World Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 07, 2011
12/07/11 at 7:55 AM
View the rankings and a breakdown on each state.
Oklahoma dropped two spots in an annual national health ranking to become the third-unhealthiest state in the union.
The state is ranked 48th in overall health, compared to 46th last year, in America's Health Rankings by the United Health Foundation.
Louisiana and Mississippi were the two states ranking worse than Oklahoma.
The main reasons for Oklahoma's poor status are high rates of smoking, obesity and diabetes, as well as the low number of primary care physicians per capita.
These issues have plagued the state for many years as it has consistently ranked in the bottom five of the overall health ranking, said Oklahoma State Health Commissioner Terry Cline.
"The news is not shocking or surprising," he said.
In the past 10 years, obesity in Oklahoma has increased from about 20 percent of the population to more than 30 percent. Although smoking rates have decreased in the past five years, the state still ranks third from last with nearly 24 percent of the population smoking.
Oklahoma's high points from the report include relatively low rates of binge drinking and infectious diseases.
Obesity and diabetes are also major challenges nationally, as well as lack of health insurance and binge drinking. Overall, the United States has improved in smoking, violent crime and infant mortality, according to the report.
Cline said the state is moving in the right direction, but change is taking time.
"That's the frustration," he said. "The progress is so slow."
The state health department is pushing two pieces of legislation in the hopes of improving Oklahoma's future ranking. One would allow cities to make tobacco restrictions that are harsher than state law.
Oklahoma is one of two states that don't allow this, and Cline called it "archaic."
High smoking rates lead to high rates of cardiovascular disease and cancer. They also cause the state to suffer economically because employers are looking to locate in areas with a healthy workforce and lower health insurance costs, he said.
The other bill would mandate health education for middle-schoolers, which Cline said would help children develop the tools and knowledge to be personally responsible for their health as they get older.
"I think that we need to put the power of people's destination and health in their hands," he said.
Oklahoma isn't alone in its lack of improvement. Nationally, there was no progress in overall health in 2011, said Keith Wilson, United Health's market medical director for Oklahoma.
Still, there is much room for improvement, he said.
"We can't go a whole lot lower," he said.
2011 America's Health Rankings
2. New Hampshire
Source: United Health Foundation
Primary care physicians: 49
Poor mental health days: 48
Cardiovascular deaths: 48
Early prenatal care: 47
Premature death: 47
Infectious disease: 10
Binge drinking: 12
High school graduation: 21
Air pollution: 29
Violent crime: 39
Lack of health insurance: 39
Source: United Health Foundation 2011 America's Health Rankings
Original Print Headline: State drops to 48th in overall health
Shannon Muchmore 918-581-8378