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20 interesting facts about Oklahomans' health

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The 2017 report on Oklahoma's health rankings was recently released by the United Health Foundation, and it shows some interesting information on the state of Oklahoma's healthiness.

The organization's mission is this, per their website:

Our mission is to provide a wide variety of health and health-related information to help policy makers, advocates and individuals understand a population’s health in a holistic, inclusive manner. The diverse set of measures included in America’s Health Rankings® reflect our belief that “health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” (World Health Organization Charter).

And here's a bit about their methodology:

The Annual Report is the longest running annual assessment of the nation’s health on a state-by-state basis. For nearly three decades, America’s Health Rankings® Annual Report has analyzed a comprehensive set of behaviors, public and health policies, community and environmental conditions, and clinical care data to provide a holistic view of the health of the people in the nation.

There's a lot of information to parse, so here's a quick rundown of 20 interesting facts about Oklahomans' health, according to the 2017 report.

#20 - We're moving on up

In 2016, Oklahoma ranked No. 46 overall, which, we can all agree, is pretty terrible.

But things are looking up! We moved up three spots to No. 43 in 2017. The states that rank lower than us are South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi. 

#19 - We have our strengths

The report points out that Oklahoma has some strong points to keep in mind:

  • Small disparity in health status by educational attainment
  • Low prevalence of excessive drinking
  • Higher number of mental health providers
#18 - But we also have our weaknesses

The report calls these "challenges," and they are:

  • High percentage of uninsured population - No. 48
  • High cardiovascular death rate - No. 48
  • High infant mortality rate - No. 47
#17 - Low birthweight has decreased (which is good!)

Children born with a low birthweight are much more susceptible to illness and other issues, so it's good to see Oklahoma is doing better in this regard: only 7.9 percent of live births result in an underweight child, compared to 8.5 percent in 2013.

This puts Oklahoma at No. 22 on the list.

#16 - Smoking is on a decline

Good job, Oklahoma! You're smoking a lot less. In the past five years, smoking has decreased 25 percent. That's huge. Only 19.6 percent of adults in Oklahoma say they smoke. While that's still a big number, it's a lot better than the 26.1 percent it was in 2012.

This puts Oklahoma at No. 36 for smokers.

#15 - Cardiovascular deaths are up

I hate to say it but cardiovascular deaths are up 4 percent from 2016 -- 335.2 deaths per 100,000 people. This puts us at No. 48. 

#14 - Excessive drinking is down

More than 17 percent of Oklahoma adults reported being excessive drinkers (17.3 percent) in 2016. But in 2017, the state saw a decent decrease to 12.8 percent.

This is a good-enough number to earn Oklahoma the No. 2 spot, meaning there are 48 states worse off in this category.

#13 - Drug deaths are down, slightly

About 20.3 people out of 100,000 died of drug-related issues in 2017. This is down a tiny bit compared to 2016, which was 20.9.

#12 - We're fat

Nearly one-third of Oklahomans are fat -- 32.8 percent. That puts us as the 9th-fattest state in the country.

But, it is down from 33.9 in 2016.

#11 - We're fat, in part, because we don't move a lot

Physical inactivity, which certainly contributes to our state's obesity issue, is down almost 4 points from 2016, sitting at 28.5 percent.

It's worth noting the methodology for this bit, as it represents the "percentage of adults who reported doing no physical activity or exercise other than their regular job in the past 30 days."

#10 - There be dentists

The report says there are roughly 50 dentists per 100,000 people. That might seem like a lot, but it only puts Oklahoma into the upper-middle of the pack overall at 39. 

#9 - Mental health providers are everywhere

As mentioned before, Oklahoma scores well for mental health providers -- we're No. 5 overall, with 382.7 per 100,000 people. 

But don't go thinking this stat only counts therapists or psychologists, because it includes "psychiatrists, psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, counselors, marriage and family therapists, providers that treat alcohol and other drug abuse and advanced practice nurses specializing in mental health care."

#8 - Air pollution is an issue

Believe it or not, just because Oklahoma doesn't have a smog problem doesn't mean our air quality is up to par.

We come in at No. 30 for air pollution, which the study counts as "average exposure of the general public to particulate matter of 2.5 microns or less in size." Our microns sit at 8 per cubic meter.

#7 - The sadness that is child poverty

Oklahoma ranks No. 41 in child poverty, which is the percentage of children younger than 18 (21.7 percent) who live in households at or below the poverty threshold. This is up from 19 percent in 2016.

#6 - Lots of on-the-job deaths

This one is a bit surprising at the forefront: Oklahoma sees 8.1 occupational deaths per 100,000 workers, which puts us at No. 47 overall. 

But remembering what industries are big employers in Oklahoma (construction, manufacturing, utilities, etc.), it begins to make some sense.

#5 - Violent crime needs some attention

The number of rapes, murders, robberies and aggravated assaults per 100,000 Oklahomans: 450. We're 37th overall. 

#4 - Cancer is a big killer

Cancer, worldwide, is a big killer, and Oklahoma is no exception to that truth.

We rank 45th overall in cancer deaths per 100,000: 216.9. 

#3 - Diabetes is running rampant

No doubt linked in part to our obesity problem, 12 percent of Oklahoma adults have diabetes. This makes us No. 47 overall.

#2 - Infant mortality

Per 1,000 live births, 7.7 children die before age 1. And we're No. 47 nationally for it.

#1 - High school graduation rates need improving

Of course, everyone would love to see 100 percent of high schoolers graduate, but that's just never been -- nor never will be -- the case. 

Oklahoma sits in the middle, at No. 30, nationwide for this stat, where 82.5 percent of high school students graduate within four years of starting ninth grade.

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Richard Hall

Richard Hall is an award-winning newsroom developer, editor and blogger for NewsOK. He was born in Austin, Texas, spent his childhood in southern California and has lived in Norman since 1999. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2008. Read more ›

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