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Thank God for Mississippi ... or Oklahoma?

by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: February 26, 2013

There’s a phrase that is sometimes uttered among Oklahoma’s public health leaders: “Thank God for Mississippi.”

Because if it weren’t for Mississippi — and generally, West Virginia and Louisiana — Oklahoma would come in last in a variety of health rankings.

But, really — Are we doing that much better? Let’s take a look.

Each year, the United Health Foundation comes out with its annual report, known as America’s Health Rankings. Although the rankings aren’t the end-all be-all of health rankings, our state leaders pay a fair amount of attention to them. That’s because the rankings provide an overall idea of how Oklahoma is doing in a range of categories.

The good news is, Oklahoma improved its ranking this past year. The bad news? We’re still in the bottom 10.

Oklahoma ranked No. 43 in overall health in the national report, the highest ranking the state has received in eight years.

Meanwhile, the top five worst states were  South Carolina (No. 46), West Virginia (No. 47), Arkansas (No. 48), Louisiana (tied No. 49) and Mississippi (No. 49). Meanwhile, Vermont ranked best for overall health.

As you can see from the comparisons below, in some instances, we’re not that far off from sinking back toward the bottom.

Gov. Mary Fallin has said, rather than expanding Oklahoma’s Medicaid program, Oklahoma will instead create its own health plan that will focus on the future health of residents.

I’m curious about what that plan will be. Oklahoma has some of the highest rates in the nation in obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and stroke, and we have a major shortage of primary care doctors. We also eat the fewest fruits and vegetables of any state. And, to top all of that off, poverty in Oklahoma is at a 10-year high.

The solutions for our state won’t be simple, and it will be interesting to see how receptive our lawmakers will be to Fallin’s plan. In her State of the State address, Gov. Fallin came out in support of a bill before the Oklahoma Legislature that would have allowed cities to make their own smoking laws, an idea that multiple lawmakers have shot down in committee.

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by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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