Community Context and Challenges

  • Oklahoma ranks 43rd of 50 states for overall resident health; poor health outcomes are driven by high rates of smoking, physical inactivity, obesity, diabetes, and limited access to health services.

  • American Indians experience higher rates of diabetes and have significantly higher death rates from unintentional injury, compared to white, black, Hispanic, and Asian populations.

  • Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among Oklahoma’s American Indian/Alaska Native population ages 10 to 34.

  • 18% of Oklahoma’s population lacks insurance, compared with the national rate of 14%.

  • 64 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties are primary care shortage areas, which means that 59% of Oklahoma residents may have a hard time accessing a primary care doctor.

Community Actions: A First Look

Through planning and outreach to cross-sector partners, OSDH has laid the groundwork to address barriers to health care and promote health and well-being across urban centers, rural communities, and tribal nations.

Early signs of progress from specific collaborative efforts are encouraging, such as transforming the public health infrastructure and reducing high rates of tobacco use and teen pregnancy. But the state’s significant fiscal distress has thrown OSDH’s multipronged efforts into question. In light of the chronic disease burden affecting the state’s American Indian and other minority populations, how the state will be able to adequately fund OSDH’s outreach and educational efforts remains an important, but unanswered, question.


These baseline reports, created in 2016, reflect our initial observations on select community programs and initiatives to gaugae ongoing, as well as newer, efforts to improve community health. Future reports will provide more in-depth insights and analysis into this community's activities.

Going Forward: Questions for Consideration

Despite funding challenges and its largely rural environment, Oklahoma has made strides to prioritize key health goals and convene and develop strategic partnerships and collaborations to achieve them. Turning Point provided an infrastructure for collaboration that continues to this day and facilitates initiatives implemented locally throughout the state. Through its Office of Tribal Liaison, OSDH has developed an infrastructure to promote outreach and collaboration on public health initiatives with the state’s 38 tribal nations. Additional surveillance, data and information gathering, and analysis is needed to determine whether Oklahoma’s recent initiatives are reducing chronic disease and improving overall health—especially among minority residents in low-income metropolitan areas and tribal communities. Finally, given the recent funding cuts to key public health programs, questions remain about the sustainability of efforts in turbulent economic times and whether the infrastructure developed to improve health and well-being is at risk.

The following questions will be addressed in future reports:

  • How are cross-sectoral partners, including those initiated under the Turning Point program, working together to plan and implement statewide infrastructure and vision? To what extent are statewide planners examining data to drive their decision-making?

  • How are statewide cross-sectoral partnerships working within Oklahoma’s tribal nations? Have they been effective in promoting collaboration and addressing health challenges facing the American Indian population?

  • To what extent can the impact of American Indian–led initiatives to address teen suicide and childhood obesity be measured?

  • To what extent will Oklahoma’s extensive planning efforts address socioeconomic disparities, such as poverty and lack of insurance, among Hispanics and blacks?

  • To what extent have Oklahoma statewide and regional initiatives been effective in addressing teen pregnancy and maternal-child health?

  • How will Oklahoma develop and execute initiatives to improve state health outcomes once planning and priority-setting are finalized?

  • To what extent have efforts to address the state’s high rates of childhood obesity been successful? Are new strategies available to help Oklahoma’s fight against childhood obesity?

  • What effect has the remote nature of Oklahoma’s vast rural setting had on access to care for low-income, uninsured residents, especially those who live in sparsely populated areas?

  • What impact has funding instability had on the health infrastructure in Oklahoma and how has that impacted key factors such as partnerships, collaboration, and service delivery?

  • How are collaborative relationships and initiatives, such as the Oklahoma Turning Point Council and Certified Healthy Oklahoma, sustained in the face of unpredictable funding?