Issue 50         

January/February 2017 

In this month's issue...
How Healthy is Oklahoma?
Did you make a new year's resolution? If you did, there's a good chance it has something to do with your health. Right? That makes this an opportune time to take a look at how healthy we are as a state. The following graphs are based on data from the United Health Foundation's annual report "America's Health Rankings, 2016," which presents trends and state comparison data from analysis of numerous national health databases. As in other realms, Oklahoma ranks poorly in many health measures in comparison to other states, which gives us, in the words of the report, "the greatest opportunity for improvement."

Click here to access the United Health Foundation's full report.

I hope this information inspires you to adopt a healthy lifestyle and encourage others to do the same.
Welcome to Data Blast
Health Status

  • Oklahoma ranks 46th in overall health status out of the 50 states. Only Alabama (47), Arkansas (48), Louisiana (49) and Mississippi (50) rank worse. This ranking is based on each state's performance on the core measures which include behaviors, community and environmental factors, health policy, clinical care, and outcomes.
  • Among health determinants, Oklahoma ranks number 47, and among health outcomes, number 44.
  • Among seniors, Oklahoma ranks number 49, and among women and children, number 46.
  • Although health disparities by level of education are not as evident in Oklahoma as in most other states, some associations are observed. Specifically, inverse relationships exist between education level and smoking, physical inactivity, and prevalence of diabetes, frequent mental distress and frequent physical distress. The relationship is not quite so clear for obesity - no significant differences are observed in obesity levels among education levels below college graduate, but the rate is significantly lower for college grads.
  • Oklahoma's strengths in the area of health include low levels of excessive drinking, low incidence of pertussis, and low disparity in health status by education.
  • Oklahoma's most extreme challenges include high levels of smoking, high levels of uninsured, and high rates of premature death.

  • Rates of obesity, both in Oklahoma and in the nation, have been climbing steadily since at least the early 1990s.
  • Oklahoma ranks number 43 in obesity prevalence among the states. Other high levels of obesity are found in south central and lower Midwestern states, including Louisiana (50), West Virginia, Mississippi, and Alabama (tied for 47), Kentucky (46), Arkansas (45), and Kansas (44).
  • Factors contributing to obesity include high caloric intake, lack of physical activity, genetics, prenatal and early life influences, unhealthy diet, insufficient sleep, and social and physical environment.

  • Percentage of the population who smoke has been gradually dropping since at least 1990 both nationally and in the state, but Oklahoma continues to have higher rates than most other states.
  • Oklahoma ranks 45th in smoking prevalence, with lower rates than Kentucky (50), West Virginia (49), Arkansas (48), Mississippi (47), and Missouri (46).
  • Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States.
  • Native Americans, people living in rural areas, those with lower education levels and those with lower incomes have the highest prevalence rates in Oklahoma.
Health Determinants

  • Present standings on determinants of health give indication of how healthy a state will be in the future. Because Oklahoma fares worse now in determinants than in outcomes, the state's future health may decline, according to America's Health Rankings, 2016.
  • Of the determinants of health, Oklahoma's worst ranking is for physical inactivity -- number 48. Only Mississippi (50) and Arkansas (49) fare more poorly.
  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults get 150 minutes of physical activity per week. Thirty-three percent of Oklahoma adults reported doing no physical activity or exercise other than their job in the past month.
  • Lower levels of education are found to be associated with higher levels of physical inactivity in Oklahoma.
  • In addition to physical inactivity, Oklahoma also ranks in the bottom ten states in occupational fatalities, lack of health insurance, smoking, drug deaths and obesity.
  • Native Americans and Whites have the highest prevalence rates for drug deaths.
Health Outcomes

  • Oklahoma falls in the bottom ten states for all health outcomes except for disparity in health status. The state's worst ranking is found in cardiovascular deaths, where Oklahoma ranks number 48, better only than Mississippi (50) and Alabama (49).
  • Cardiovascular death remains the nation's leading cause of death in spite of a declining rate both nationally and in Oklahoma since at least 1990.
  • African Americans have a higher rate of cardiovascular death than do other races; and males have a higher rate than females.
  • Infant mortality is declining in Oklahoma, but not as rapidly as are most other states, giving Oklahoma a ranking of number 46. In spite of reductions in infant mortality in the United States, the rate remains higher than in many other developed countries.
  • Premature death is a measure of years of potential life lost before age 75. Behavioral factors are to blame for almost half of the nation's premature deaths. While most states' rates of premature death have been declining since the early 1990s, Oklahoma's continues to rise.
  • Oklahoma ranks poorly in many other health indicators including consumption of fruits and vegetables, median household income, colorectal cancer screening, dental visits, heart attack, heart disease, high blood pressure, self-report of very good or excellent health, injury deaths, poor physical health days, and suicide.
  • Oklahoma's one bright spot across both health determinants and outcomes is found in disparity in health status by level of education. This measure is based on self-reports of health status of adults with less than a high school education and those with a high school diploma or higher levels of education. The smaller the difference between these two groups in their reporting of excellent or very good health, the better the state ranks in this outcome measure. Oklahoma ranks 2nd, poorer only than Hawaii (1).

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Until next time,     
Melanie Poulter 
Senior Planner, Demography and Geography
Community Service Council

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