Road-fix initiative model for health care
BY GERARD P. CLANCY
Friday, January 25, 2013
1/25/13 at 3:31 AM
In my daily work, as well as in the lives of my children and their athletic events, I travel frequently across Oklahoma. It has been a pleasure to work with the citizens of both our largest and smaller communities. As of late, I have noticed significant improvements in the condition of our roads and bridges. Clearly, more improvements are necessary, but it is nice to see progress being made after years of delayed upkeep.
Just a few years ago, many of Oklahoma's bridges were designated as "structurally deficient," among the worst in the nation. That dubious distinction was repeatedly made evident to us as large pieces of bridges fell to the rivers and roads below and entire sections of highways collapsed.
Local, state and federal leaders were moved by these rankings and by the observable shortcomings of our roads and bridges and unified their efforts for a better transportation system. For almost a decade, planning and funding from local, state and federal levels have worked in concert to significantly and quickly make progress on our roads and bridges.
Today, I see tangible evidence of improved conditions in my travels around Oklahoma and I thank our leaders for their long-term commitment to improving the safety of our transportation system.
Maybe there is a lesson to be learned from these transportation initiatives in our heated discussions about Oklahoma's health. And maybe it is time to change the conversation on health. I would argue that the data show that Oklahoma's health is "structurally deficient."
Similar to our recent roads and bridges infrastructure rankings, measure after measure ranks Oklahoma in the bottom 20 percent in health, health system performance, obesity, heart disease deaths, stroke deaths, premature births, suicide, screening for breast cancer and screening for colon cancer. We are 49th in physicians per capita and 41 percent of our Oklahoma physicians are 55 or older.
All this sounds "structurally deficient" to me. And just like seeing our roads and bridges fail in front of our very eyes, our emergency rooms and safety-net clinics see the failings of our health-care system to stay ahead of end-stage diabetes, young adults suffering heart attacks and the late, and therefore almost certainly terminal, diagnosis of cancers.
Maybe if we recognized our health-care system as "structurally deficient" we could push ourselves to again unify at the local, state and federal levels at this time to invest in and improve the health of all Oklahomans.
Gerard P. Clancy, M.D., is president of the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa.
OU-Tulsa President Gerard P. Clancy: I would argue that the data show that Oklahoma's health is "structurally deficient."