Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Southern Connections: Report Draws Map to Prosperity for Oklahoma

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Southern Connections: Report Draws Map to Prosperity for Oklahoma

Article excerpt

Although many Southern states are strongly linked to the global economy, there are social conditions and other factors that could erect barriers to maintaining that prosperity, according to a report issued by a commission of the Southern Growth Policies Board.

"Southern Connections: Connecting with Each Other, Connecting with the Future" is the result of a review by the Commission on the Future of the South, which meets every six years to assess the region's progress and map strategy for promoting its economic and social growth.

Oklahoma's cabinet Secretary of Administration Pam Warren represents Oklahoma on the commission.

"This report is a must-read for business leaders, policy-makers and concerned citizens," she said. "Commissioners sought a consensus to identify a workable strategy to maintain regional prosperity and expand it into the next millennium. I hope that Oklahoma's leaders will see that commission goals are attainable and can lead to continued prosperity."

Warren pointed to the report's recommendations that government assess local conditions to determine where resources can attain the greatest impact.

"The report does not offer a one-size-fits-all approach," she said. "State and local governments are encouraged to assess their needs and implement policies to strengthen their communities, give children a good start that leads to future success in their lives and that businesses, churches, civic organizations and government share responsibilities to those ends."

Citing the importance of cultural and educational exposure through churches and civic organizations as a foundation for prosperity of vibrant and secure communities, the report concludes that key components of a community are a healthy environment and quality education for children. It calls for an aggressive strategy to keep children in school.

Sen. Cal Hobson, D-Lexington, serves on the board.

"This report correctly stresses that improving child development and education policies strengthen our communities," said Hobson. "Through economic partnerships, strong communities can better withstand the ebb and flow of economic trends."

Among areas of concern, the report cites poverty in rural areas and the inner city and lack of work force knowledge skills.

The document is broken into four main parts: building vibrant, secure communities, healthy environments for children, broader economic partnerships, high-quality education and world-class work skills. It includes recommendations for what can be done in each area at the regional, state and community level.

To build strong communities, the commission said that as a region the South should:

* Establish a Southern Leadership Network to support the region's community leadership programs and encourage networking and collaboration.

* Establish and use practical benchmarks for quality of life.

* Eliminate all substantial barriers to interstate telemedicine -- such as variances in medical malpractice rules and electronic privacy standards for medical records.

* Convene a Southern Health Care Summit to focus regional resources on preventive health.

The report notes that total health care spending is expected to double by 2007, growing from 13.4 percent to 16.6 percent of the nation's economy since just last year, posting tough questions as to access and affordability.

"We as a nation invest more in health care than any other country in the world, yet we do not produce the healthiest people in the world," the report states. "We pay more attention to the health of our elderly than we do to the health of young children, despite clear evidence that investments in early care -- immunizations or prenatal care, for example -- dramatically reduce long-run costs."

Communities must also focus on improving quality of life for its youngest children, the report concludes. …

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