It's no secret that Oklahoma falls behind in many health status indicators.
Among the rest of the nation, Oklahoma has the second-highest number of deaths related to heart disease, seventh-highest in cancer deaths and fourth-highest in diabetes deaths. Oklahoma's adult obesity rate has nearly quadrupled since 1988, according to the state Health Department.
On Tuesday, during a news conference at the Capitol, state health leaders said although Oklahoma faces many challenges, health care providers are working together to stimulate change.
“Changing health care is hard — changing behavior is even harder,” said Gregg Koehn, the Oklahoma Foundation for Medical Quality chief executive office. “We certainly don't have all the answers, but we can together make a difference.”
The Oklahoma Foundation for Medical Quality hosted the news conference, which served as an announcement of “Oklahoma Healthcare Quality Week.” Gov. Mary Fallin proclaimed in August that the health care quality week would run Oct. 14 to Oct. 20.
The foundation is a state-based “Quality Improvement Organization,” a term that means it's contracted through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to improve the effectiveness of services delivered to Medicare beneficiaries, according to the center's website.
Koehn said over the past few years, the organization has helped about 1,000 primary care providers implement electronic medical records. About 200 providers have achieved Stage 1 Meaningful Use, he said.
“Meaningful use” is the set of standards defined by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Incentive Programs that governs the use of electronic health records and allows eligible providers and hospitals to earn incentive payments by meeting specific criteria, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, who spoke at the news conference, said many of Oklahoma's health-related problems stem back to personal responsibility and access to quality health care.
“Health care is a real need for our state, and it comes down to the personal health of so many of our citizens,” Lamb said. “None of us want a government so big that it tells you when you can or cannot eat the Twinkie. That government is too big.”
Lamb said it's important for experts in health care in Oklahoma to collaborate on what are the best actions to take to best serve the needs of the state's residents, he said.
Lamb said he holds several town hall meetings across Oklahoma, especially in small towns and in rural Oklahoma.
He hears similar things in communities across the state — people are concerned about access to quality care.
“We have those common goals, and we have to speak advice on how we address them to move our state forward and make sure we have a thriving robust rural Oklahoma,” he said.