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New Oklahoma health website shows progress, room for improvement

Oklahoma's smoking rate has improved, according to recently released health data.[ Thinkstock image]
Oklahoma's smoking rate has improved, according to recently released health data.[ Thinkstock image]

Oklahoma City — Oklahoma has improved on 18 major health measures, ranging from the percentage of adults who smoke to the number of babies who die in their first year of life, but it's a little early to celebrate.

The state went in the wrong direction on 12 other health measures, according the new State of the State website and the last report, which was released in 2014.

The website,, allows the public to pull up information about how Oklahoma compares to the rest of the country on about 50 health-related metrics. It isn't possible to compare all the metrics to the previous report, because some new measures have been added and others have been dropped or changed.

The site also includes information about specific counties and demographic groups based on race, income, educational attainment and age.

Tom Bates, interim commissioner of the Oklahoma State Department of Health, told reporters at an announcement Monday that the website replaces a report that was updated every three years. Making the information more current and accessible should help policymakers with decisions about health, he said.

“There's no shortage of data collected across state government,” he said. “The question is, can you turn that data into a form that's available to the public and drives decision-making?”

A dive into the data yields some good news. The total death rate, adjusted for age, shows that Oklahomans are less likely to die prematurely than they were a few years ago. The death rates for seven major causes, including heart disease and cancer, also declined.

Unfortunately, deaths rose for four other causes: unintentional injuries, diabetes, suicide and Alzheimer's disease.

Oklahomans' health behaviors also were a mixed bag. Residents were more likely to eat vegetables at least once per day and less likely to smoke. On the other hand, they were less likely to eat fruit, slightly more likely to report getting no exercise and a bit more likely to be obese, though some health watchers are encouraged that the obesity rate isn't climbing as fast as it was earlier in the decade.

The report included some good news for the youngest Oklahomans. Babies were less likely to die before their first birthdays, though the infant mortality rate still is high when compared to other states. They were also less likely to be born too small, to a teen mom, or to a mother who hadn't received prenatal care early in her pregnancy.

The rates of Oklahomans in poverty or living without health insurance also fell, which can improve the odds people will get appropriate care. At the same time, however, the percentage of Oklahomans who said they were in good health declined, as did the percentage who said they had a normal health care provider.

Dr. Scott Stewart, a member of the board that oversees the Health Department, said the data will guide organizations looking to tackle the most important health needs in their areas. It also shows some improvements in Oklahoma's health since 2014, though plenty of work remains, he said.

“Oklahoma has no shortage of areas that need work,” he said.

How we compare


Measures Oklahoma improved on since the 2014 report

• Total death rate

• Infant mortality

• Deaths from heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic lower respiratory disease, pneumonia and kidney disease

• Residents who rarely eat vegetables

• Asthma rate

• Adults who smoke

• Children who are up-to-date on vaccines

• Seniors who got the pneumonia vaccine

• Births to teen mothers

• Mothers who received prenatal care in their first trimester

• Low birth weight rate

• Uninsured rate

• Poverty rate


Measures where Oklahoma worsened

• Deaths from injuries, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease and suicide

• Diabetes rate

• Residents who rarely eat fruit

• Adults who get no physical activity

• Obesity rate

• Seniors who got the flu shot

• Residents who report they are in good health

• Adults who have had a dental visit

• Residents who have a regular health care provider



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Meg Wingerter

Meg Wingerter has covered health at The Oklahoman since July 2017. Previously, she lived in Topeka, Kansas, and worked at Kansas News Service and The Topeka Capital-Journal, where she earned awards for business coverage. She graduated from... Read more ›