Oklahoma Develops Local Partnerships to Drive Public Health Change

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Field of Work: Strengthening the public health system

Problem Synopsis: According to an Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, The Future of Public Health, by 1988, the nation had lost sight of its public health goals, and allowed public health to fall into disarray. The report noted that America's public health system was expected to do too much with too few resources. It also stated that capabilities for effective public health actions were inadequate, and the health of the public was "unnecessarily threatened as a result."

In the 1990s, Oklahoma had one of the best public health infrastructures in the nation, with public health departments in 69 of its 77 counties. Nonetheless, the state had some of the nation's highest rates of the four leading causes of death (heart disease, cancer, cerebrovascular disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), according to a 1997 report from the Oklahoma State Board of Health (The State of the State's Health).

Synopsis of the Work: Turning Point: Collaborating for a New Century in Public Health, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, defined its mission as to "transform and strengthen the public health system in the United States to make the system more effective, more community-based and more collaborative." The two foundations partnered to support 22 states and 41 local communities in those states. RWJF also supported five National Excellence Collaboratives that allowed states to work together on important public health infrastructure challenges.

Turning Point provided the opportunity to develop partnerships between the state and local communities in order to pursue tailored local solutions to community-specific needs, conditions and concerns.

From 1997 to 1999, project staff from the Oklahoma State Department of Health worked with an advisory board, public and private sector partners and three Kellogg-funded community partnerships to develop a public health improvement plan.

Key Results: By 2004, 50 Oklahoma counties had developed local partnerships. These partnerships assessed local public health needs, developed and implemented Community Health Improvement Plans, and evaluated progress. The activities begun under Oklahoma Turning Point became part of the Oklahoma State Department of Health's Community Development Services after the program ended in 2004.