Oklahoma Health Ranking Improves

Image of Picasso painting

Oklahoma’s overall health ranking has moved up from 47 to 43 in the nation, but the state’s residents still lack adequate access to primary care physicians, according to a report issued by the United Health Foundation.

Perhaps, the most telling fact in the report, which can be downloaded here, is the state’s obesity rate, which has increased by a staggering 148% percent since 1990. The report notes that 28.8% of the state’s population is obese.

The state has made improvements over last year in decreasing poverty among children and infectious disease, according to the report, which also cited the state’s low prevalence of binge drinking and strong public health funding.

But there remain problems. Air pollution, according to the report, has increased by 5% over last year. The state continues to have limited access to primary care physicians at 79.9 per 100,000 residents. More than 25% of state residents continue to smoke.

Overall, the report highlights one of the state’s systemic problems, which is the poor health of many of its residents. This costs the state in job productivity and missed days at school. This adds up in the long run, and it adversely impacts the state’s economic climate.

Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett’s program, OKC Million, has increased awareness about one of the state’s main health problems, which is obesity, but other social factors, such as low wages and lack of health insurance among residents, contribute to the state’s low health rankings.

What do you think? Vote on a poll about the issue. Feel free to leave a comment.


Can State Reduce Its High Female Incarceration Rate?

Image of Picasso painting

One of the reasons Oklahoma leads the nation in the number of women in prison on a per capita basis is that judges and juries continue to hand out harsh sentences for drug crimes committed by non-violent offenders.

These non-violent offenders should receive treatment for substance abuse and basic educational rehabilitation and job training, not long prison sentences, which cost state taxpayers a tremendous amount of money and, in the process, shatter families. Broken families then lead to more substance abuse, and the cycle repeats itself.

The point, of course, is to break the cycle. It has to start somewhere, and the state needs to kick start the process if it wants to save taxpayer money by reducing its high incarceration rates.

Recently, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections appointed Laura Pitman as its first deputy director of female offender operations. Her mission, according to news reports, is to reduce the number of women imprisoned in Oklahoma.

This is a long overdue appointment and initiative. The state now incarcerates about 2,500 women, some of whom are mothers. This is more than any other state on a per capita basis, according to the Department of Justice. The state incarcerates women at twice the national average. This does nothing but sully the state’s reputation as it compounds the problem by weakening families, which, in many cases, are already suffering.

Creating new diversionary programs that help some women stay out of prison will most certainly help, but the larger question is whether the state’s judicial system will reduce the number of harsh sentences given to non-violent, female offenders. Prosecutors and judges in Oklahoma don’t want to be seen as lenient, but they need to work with correction officials if they really want to do what’s best for the state, which sometimes means helping families break destructive patterns. This applies to male incarceration as well. In 2006, Oklahoma was third in the nation in overall incarceration rates on a per capita basis.

The bottom line is Pitman needs support from the state’s court system as she tackles one of Oklahoma’s most urgent issues.

What do you think? Vote on a poll about the issue. Feel free to leave a comment.


Okie Funk Wins Netroots Award

Image of Okie Funk avatar

Okie Funk has won a Peace Arena Netroots Award in the “Wind Power” category for “most sustained rant.”

Serena Blaiz, a well-known Oklahoma progressive activist who publishes the Peace Arena blog, gave out the awards on Monday.

In an earlier post, Blaiz wrote she created the blog awards because “I’m serious about honoring the recipients, who toil in near obscurity day after day in a non-progressive state (for now). Any light I can shine in their direction, I’ll hope can help their ongoing efforts (which are far more consistent than mine).”

The blogs were given awards in free-form categories.

Okie Funk, which has been published for nearly five years, won for its sustained, progressive voice.

“Okie Funk’s resident doctor, DocHoc, is never better than when he is decrying the shameless waste of tree pulp that is The Oklahoman,” Blaiz wrote. “Fortunately for his readers, the paper has given him plenty to work with, and doesn’t look like it will stop any time soon — more’s the pity.”

Other blogs receiving awards included droogie6655321, Woody Guthrie Award, Down With Tryanny!, Mason Jar of Red Dirt Award, Oklahoma Women’s Network Blog, Buffalo Stampede Award, Concrete Buffalo, Land Run Award, and Phototune, Black Blizzard Award.

Read more about the winners on Peace Arena. These are some great blogs that fight for progressive causes in Oklahoma. As Blaiz points out there are a lot of excellent progressive blogs in Oklahoma that deserve recognition. Kudos to Blaiz for taking the time to put together the awards. She consistently works to pull the progressive community together. Her message is this: Keep fighting.

Okie Funk has also won “Best Political Blog” in the Okie Blog Awards contests held in 2006 and 2007. The blog was recently featured in Oklahoma Magazine.