Oklahoma City-County Health Department (OCCHD) announced May 4, 2017 the preliminary release of the new 2017 Wellness Score, outlining improvements in many of the 14 measured health outcomes ranges from deaths due to heart disease, stroke, cancer and even suicide.
The press conference was held at the Northeast Regional Health and Wellness Campus located at 2600 NE 63rd Street, just north of Remington Park.
Improvements in Longstanding Chronic Diseases
Among the impressive data is 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 like My Heart that offer free medications and doctor visits to those with chronic diseases along with Total Wellness classes, which give people 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.
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 create access to things that keep people healthy. Through initiatives like MAPS, Oklahoma City has seen increased bike and walking trails, and through efforts led by OCCHD, realizing the power of integrating many traditional and non-traditional health services to work together in one location.
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. The all-cause mortality rate fell more than 4 percent compared to the 2010-2012 rate, which was released in the 2014 Wellness Score.
“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 services and amenities that improves their health and quality of life. Our Board and staff have worked tirelessly to improve the way our local public health system delivers services in Oklahoma County, and we will continue to innovatively serve our community alongside our dedicated partners,” said OCCHD Executive Director Gary Cox.
“We’ve worked to improve the overall health of our community through awareness campaigns and changing the built environment to encourage healthier, more active lifestyles. Our partnership with the Oklahoma City-County Health Department and its efforts over the last several years have resulted in improved quality of life for many in Oklahoma City. It makes us more competitive for business development and serves as a model for other communities around the country,” added Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett.
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.
A Multifaceted Approach to Improvement
No organization or effort can alone make the significant impact on health that is needed, which is why OCCHD relies heavily on its community coalition of partners, the Wellness Now Coalition – an arm of the agency composed of seven work groups to address many of these health issues with practical strategies. The Mental Health Work Group has been aggressively pushing to reduce the stigma of mental illness and discuss treatment options in the community. On the matter of violence, the Faith Work Group has hosted several conferences between law enforcement, clergy and community leaders to improve the relationships between all segments of our community. The Faith group is also active in promoting certified healthy congregations.