AP NEWS

Oklahoma falls in health ranking, but infant health improves

December 31, 2018

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma’s overall health ranking fell among U.S. states in 2018, though the state did see an uptick in infant health.

The Oklahoman reported the state ranked 47th in overall health in 2018, down from 43rd in 2017, according to the America’s Health Rankings annual report . The findings indicated that Oklahoma residents continued to do worse compared to other states on measures of health behavior and outcomes.

Fewer infants were born too small or died before reaching their first birthday in the last year, though the ranking increase was small: Oklahoma moved up from 47th in 2017 to 43rd in 2018 in infant deaths.

Some risk factors that affect infant health are down, such as teen pregnancies and smoking while pregnant, said Joyce Marshall, director of maternal and child services at the Oklahoma State Department of Health. But she said her agency needs more data to determine whether infant mortality rates will continue to fall.

Marshall noted that the state is working with hospitals to provide new parents with sleep sacks, to help prevent infants from suffocating in a blanket. She said the state is also working to expand a project to provide portable cribs.

“It’s all well and good to receive the education, but if they don’t have the means to provide a crib, that doesn’t really help,” Marshall told the newspaper.

For children and teenagers, the report shows they were slightly less likely to live in poverty in 2018, though the state still slipped from 41st to 42nd in the rankings because of progress made by other states. And the rates of vaccinations were mixed: rates for HPV vaccinations improved, as did the sequence of shots children get before age 3, though rates were down for tetanus and meningococcal disease vaccinations.

“It’s not good, especially if it does that for a few years, but one year doesn’t mean much,” said Dr. Thomas Kuhls, president of Vaccinate Oklahoma. “We’ve got to do better as a state, there’s no doubt about that.”

On-the-job deaths decreased for adults, as did cancer deaths. But deaths from heart disease and drug use increased, as did the percentage of people who said they had diabetes or poor mental health. Also up among adults are the rates of smoking, physical inactivity, obesity and excessive drinking.

“Certainly, being 47th in health in Oklahoma, or even 43rd, like we were last year, is unacceptable,” said Gary Cox, executive director of the Oklahoma City-County Health Department, adding that the state may not be investing enough in targeting people at higher risk of poor health.

___

Information from: The Oklahoman, http://www.newsok.com

AP RADIO
Update hourly