Oklahoma is consistently ranked at the bottom when it comes to health care, and those numbers are even lower in our minority community. The State Department of Health is looking for ways to turn those numbers around.
April is Minority Health Month, from now until June, the State Department of Health will be in cities across Oklahoma developing strategies to reduce health disparities among minorities.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health is digging inside the minds of people in the minority community.
"We're relying on communities to tell us what's working, what's not working, what are the barriers, what are those things that really build to the strength and health of a strong healthy community and what are those things that get in the way," said State Department of Health Commissioner, Dr. Terry Cline.
The department is hosting a number of community chats to hear firsthand about diseases plaguing certain minority groups.
One topic of discussion is obesity. In Oklahoma, three in ten whites are obese. The number increases for other ethnic groups. Four in ten blacks and Native Americans are overweight.
Now, they're making a list of ways to get those numbers down.
Langston University student, Keondra Doyle, said, "Not even having access to healthy foods in the North Tulsa area, especially because I live on this side of town and I have to commute a distance just to go to a health food store."
"Well educated community, safer sidewalks, walking trails, healthier foods, access to quality health care, things of that caliber," said Tulsa business owner, Terry McGee.
There are huge health disparities across the state and even greater disparities among minorities.
"The infant mortality was a shocker to me," Doyle said.
In 2012, nearly 400 Oklahoma babies died before their first birthday.
"We have a rate in the state that's higher than the national average. African American babies are actually dying at twice the rate as white babies," Cline said.
The world's number one preventable cause of death, tobacco, was also a hot topic. Smoking kills 6,000 Oklahomans every year, but that number is dropping, down 11 percent last year.
The State Department of Health plans to gather all this input and update the Oklahoma Health Improvement Plan to make sure all communities have access to proper health care.
There will be another community chat in Tulsa on Wednesday, April 16th from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Community Service Council on 16 East 16th Street.