Oklahoma ranks No. 44 in overall health, according to an annual nationwide rankings report.
At first glance, the ranking — provided through United Health Foundation's annual survey — looks like a drop in the state's score.
Last year, state leaders hailed Oklahoma's No. 43 ranking as a success, proof that the state's health initiatives were working. It was the highest ranking the state had received in eight years.
However, over the past year, United Health Foundation's analysts changed what data they include in the report and re-evaluated each state's ranking.
For example, the report now includes each state's drug overdose rates, an area where Oklahoma ranks poorly. This was the primary reason Oklahoma's 2012 ranking dropped to No. 46, meaning the state's ranking did improve from 2012 to 2013, said Tom Eckstein, the principal author of the report.
Dr. Terry Cline, the state's health commissioner, said in a statement that the department is concerned the changes in methodology will be confusing to many Oklahomans.
“What is important to note is that issues which contribute to public health outcomes can be complicated and multifaceted, and difficult to reduce to a single overall ranking that provides a comprehensive assessment of the health of the state,” Cline said.
Bad news ...
Despite the disgruntlements over the changes in methodology, the report does provide an overall picture of where Oklahoma stands among other states in residents' health.
Obesity remains high in Oklahoma, with 32 percent of adults who are obese, an estimated 875,000 adult residents. Additionally, many Oklahoma adults are physically inactive, 28 percent of adults equaling about 770,000 residents.
Oklahoma had the highest percentage change in the nation for its rate of children in poverty. Since last year's report, the state saw its poverty rate among children increase almost 7 percentage points.
Over the past 10 years, the percentage of Oklahoma children in poverty increased from 21 percent to 27 percent.
Good news ...
The report did include some good news.
For example, in the past 10 years, the rate of cardiovascular deaths decreased from 402 to about 331 deaths per 100,000 people, according to the report.
In the past year, smoking prevalence decreased in Oklahoma from 26 percent to 23 percent of adults. However, more than 630,000 adults still smoke in Oklahoma, according to the report.
In the past five years, the rate of preventable hospitalizations decreased from about 96 to 77 discharges per 1,000 Medicare enrollees; however, Oklahoma still ranks poorly among the states for this measure, according to the report.
Overall, Oklahoma ranks worst in its rates of drug overdose deaths, obesity, occupational deaths, violent crime, children in poverty and its ratio of primary care doctors.
Cline said he was pleased that the report notes Oklahoma's achievements in smoking prevalence and heart disease.
“We know we still have many opportunities for improvement in the challenges posed by a high rate of drug-related deaths, limited availability of primary care physicians, and low immunization coverage among children,” Cline said. “We continue to pursue improvement of vaccination rates for children as a high priority for the state — and our low incidence of pertussis (whooping cough) infections is an indication of our commitment to addressing vaccine-preventable childhood diseases.”