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OKC, Okla. County health outcomes show improvements in many areas

Heide Brandes / Red Dirt Report
Leisa Haynes shares her story at a press conference held today by the Oklahoma City – County Health Department.
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OKLAHOMA CITY -- When Leisa Haynes joined the Oklahoma City-County Health Department’s free Total Wellness classes, she knew that losing weight and adopting a healthier lifestyle would be challenging.

Throughout the program, she learned not only how to set a plate to reduce calories, but how to fit exercise into her life. She attended classes and built a strong support system through the program to keep focusing on her health.

“I learned how much salt was in food,” she said. “Eight weeks ago, I cut salt from my diet and now, I was able to get rid of one of my blood pressure medications. That is a direct benefit from this program.”

To the OCCHD staff and leadership, Haynes’ experience is exactly what they are aiming for. A strategic plan to offer education, classes and access to healthcare in Oklahoma County was put in place to address health issues in the area.

A new report shows that the programs may be working.

The Oklahoma City-County Health Department (OCCHD) announced Thursday that Oklahoma County has seen improvements in health outcomes ranging from deaths due to heart disease, stroke, cancer and more.

The preliminary release of the new 2017 Wellness Score, which focuses on health studies from 2013 to 2015, compared the health outcomes to the 2014 Wellness Score, which focused on 2010 to 2012.

What the data showed was improvements in many of the 14 measured health outcomes, including a 14 percent reduction in stroke deaths, attributed in large part to the increased community health intervention efforts through education and outreach to large areas of Oklahoma County.

Programs offered through the OCCHD address a multitude of health issues, from heart death, diabetes and weight loss. One program, My Heart, offers free medications and doctor visits to those with chronic diseases.

The free Total Wellness classes give citizens the knowledge and tools to make better dietary choices and encourage an increase in their level of activity, can also be credited to the decline in mortality rates.

“The results we are talking about today are really the result of a deliberate and methodical process that the OCCHD undertook in 2010,” said Gary Raskob, Board of Heath chair. “We had a 4.1 percent reduction in deaths from all causes. That translates to 368 deaths prevented over that period of time.”

In addition to OCCHD programs, a variety of factors are responsible for the decreases, including the increased community conversation around health and wellness, and the focus from a multitude of partners leveraging resources to keep people healthy.

Through initiatives like MAPS, Oklahoma City has seen increased bike and walking trails. Efforts led by OCCHD integrates traditional and non-traditional health services to work together in one location.

Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett said health is oftentimes the missing piece in quality of life in a city.

“These are real, solid improvements,” Cornett said. “If Oklahoma City is going to grow and prosper into the kind of city we want it to be, it’s not going to get there if we don’t resolve the educational needs and health needs of our community.”

Health advocate and OKC mayor Mick Cornett. (Heide Brandes / Red Dirt Report)

Screenings from OCCHD clinical services also played a role in the 3.5 percent decline in heart disease deaths, 5.6 percent drop in lung cancer deaths and an 8.7 percent decrease in breast cancer death rates.

“It is clear that the programs in the community are working, and that is really encouraging news,” said Raskob.

The OCCHD also works with 350 community partners to address health issues in the city and county.

“This shows remarkable work is being done to make our community more focused on prevention, wellness and educational success for the next generation. While we made significant progress in addressing longstanding health disparities, we still have challenges in providing the community service and amenities that improves their health and quality of life,” said OCCHD Executive Director Gary Cox.

Gary Cox, executive director of OCCHD. (Heide Brandes / Red Dirt Report)

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT

While improved health outcomes are to be celebrated, Oklahoma City and Oklahoma still fall short nationally in overall health rankings. Many opportunities exist to continue to improve, like addressing the opioid epidemic, expand projects and partnerships with schools and continue to expand the integration model that has seen so much success at the current Northeast Regional Health and Wellness Campus.

The Northeast campus saw more than 36,000 visitors in 2016 and is recognized for its innovation and unique amenities provided by the private sector.

According to the OCCHD, a similar campus is being built in the city’s southside, which is expected to serve 50,000 people when it opens.

“These outcomes aren’t the result of one group, but the whole community,” Cox said. “We do have something we do need to be aware of in our community, and it’s really a sad statistic. We have a difference of years in lifespan in Oklahoma County of 18 years. If a child is born in a certain zip code in our city and county, that child could possibily live 18 years less than those born in other zip codes.”

The three zip codes with the highest life expectancy, according to the report, are the zip codes of 73012, 73013 and 73131 while the zip codes with the lowest life expectancy are 72145, 73141 and 73117.

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About the Author

Heide Brandes

Heide Brandes is an award-winning journalist and editor with more than 18 years of experience....

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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