Oklahoma City, Tulsa Among Least Healthy Cities

Thursday, November 30th 2006, 9:39 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Oklahoma's two largest cities rank near the bottom in a new national survey of the country's healthiest cities.

Of the 100 largest metropolitan areas analyzed in Self magazine's seventh-annual "America's Healthiest Places" survey, Oklahoma City remained at No. 98 and Tulsa climbed from 99th last year to 94th this year.

The results came as no surprise to Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, who said the state created sedentary citizens by building its communities around the automobile.

"I don't doubt the statistics," Cornett said. "If they show that we are overweight and don't eat correctly, I bet that's right."

The survey singled out Tulsa as having the worst eating habits overall, but Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor questioned those findings.

She points to Tulsa's seasonal outdoor produce markets and says her city has one of the most successful organic supermarkets in the nation, which is doubling its size.

Tulsans take advantage of nearly 100 miles of trails, plus the city's low-cost public fitness centers, Taylor said.

Cornett also lauded the ambitious trail-building plan Oklahoma City has adopted, but acknowledged Oklahomans are just now catching up with other cities.

"We went for 21 years without passing any bonds for capital improvements for our public parks," Cornett said. "There has been little priority given to exercise."

For the survey, analysts crunched roughly 6,000 bits of data in nearly 40 categories and used sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Environmental Protection Agency and the FBI for its rankings.

With women's health as the central issue, the survey looked at the number of rapes, the availability of mammograms and other women's health care, commute times and access to health clubs.

Oklahoma City ranked poorly in mental health. The survey found 50 percent more women are likely to commit suicide than the survey average, with 6.5 female suicides per 100,000. The average is 4.3 female suicides.

Smoking and poor eating habits also hurt Oklahoma City and Tulsa.

Detroit bottomed out at 100, largely because of the city's high unemployment rate, high rate of depression and bad smoking habits. Detroit also has the survey's highest rate of sexually transmitted diseases and more than twice the average rate of violent crime.