Overall health in state garners 41st ranking

Wednesday, October 24th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Fewer Oklahomans are smoking, but long-standing problems with tobacco addiction and obesity gave the state a low ranking in a national health study on health.

Oklahoma ranks 41st out of 50 states in UnitedHealth Foundation's State Health Rankings report released Tuesday, up one spot from last year.

In the last year, Oklahoma decreased the prevalence of smoking from 39 percent to 24 percent of the population. In 1990, about 44 percent of Oklahoma's population smoked.

Oklahoma ranks 48th in the country for heart disease.

``Because of a definite time lag, you won't see a change in risk factors for heart disease for at least five to 10 years because of Oklahoma's terrible past history of nicotine addiction,'' Gordon Deckert, a state Board of Health member, said.

Obesity and sedentary lifestyles put Oklahomans at increased risk of heart disease. An infant-mortality rate of 8.5 deaths per 1,000 live births also remains a problem, up 0.5 from last year.

The report by the Minnesota-based medical foundation shows that Oklahoma's support for public health care decreased and now ranks 46th among states.

Overall, Oklahoma's score improved from 10.8 percent below the national average to 7.7 percent below, making Oklahoma one of five states showing the largest positive increases. Arkansas, Alaska, Connecticut and Indiana are the others.

Decreases also were registered in cancer rates, violent crimes and the incidence of infectious diseases. Oklahoma traffic fatalities decreased because of tougher seat belt laws.

Minnesota holds the top spot as the healthiest state in the country. New Hampshire ranks second, followed by Utah, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Louisiana is bottom on the list. Mississippi ranked 49th. The other states below Oklahoma are Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, West Virginia, Nevada and South Carolina.