Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: Partnerships Are Key

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: Partnerships Are Key

Article excerpt

We've all heard the good news/bad news jokes about someone receiving a diagnosis from a doctor. But in real life these situations are different, and there is no punch line.

If Oklahoma was a patient visiting its doctor, it would hear both good news and bad news, as evidenced by last year's State of the State's Health report. First, the bad news. Oklahoma ranks near the bottom in rankings for major causes of death: 47th in the nation for deaths per capita due to stroke, 49th for deaths due to cardiovascular disease and 40th for lung cancer. These rankings support another grim statistic: The average life expectancy for an Oklahoman is two years less than the national average.

But there is also good news. Oklahoma has made significant improvements in its rates of early childhood immunizations, moving from 44th to 25th in the nation in a single year, due to a combination of public and private efforts. And among the best news from the state Board of Health was this observation: "Of considerable significance is the response from citizens ... the emergence of programs, coalitions and partnerships has been notable ... we now have an infrastructure in place. ... The question is now, what do we do with this infrastructure for change?"

The key to measurable, sustained improvement in Oklahoma's health is partnerships.

These kinds of partnerships aren't all that different from the legal variety; they're agreements to work together for the benefit of all parties. The benefit is a healthier Oklahoma.

Business leaders have a strong interest in joining efforts to address major public health issues. Healthy workers are more productive and absent less often. A healthy work force helps employers control rising health plan costs. And business leaders know that when Oklahoma ranks near the bottom in key health rankings, it hurts their efforts to recruit and retain talent. …

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