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Healthy communities should be commended for being proactive

The United Health Foundation ranked Oklahoma number 43 in the nation in terms of health in 2017, and for one local nonprofit the answer to improving the state’s health may have been recommended in their Town Hall. 

A healthier Oklahoma has been an ongoing goal and recommendation of The Oklahoma Academy with Town Halls on health being held in 2002 and 2014. The 2014 Town Hall, “We Can Do Better, Improving the Health of the Oklahoma People,” recommended five priorities that needed to be addressed in the state.

The five priories included: 1.) Oklahoma Legislature increase the funding for the Federally Qualified Health Centers by matching Federal funds, thereby fully funding the uncompensated care pool to $10 million and expanding FQHC access throughout the state; 2.) Expanding alternatives to incarceration through drug courts, mental health courts, community sentencing, and nonprofit programs such as Women In Recovery (Tulsa area) and ReMerge (Oklahoma City area); 3.) Developing a unified message and educational campaign to drive public health needs to the forefront in order to improve our public health; 4A.) Encourage and incentivize citizens to stop using tobacco; 4B.) That the State Department of Education and public school districts place more emphasis on physical fitness and health education/literacy in schools; 5.) Develop and implementing an effective “health exchange information system” that includes better coordination across state agencies. 

The Academy is excited to see that Shawnee is a community involved with the Blue Zone Project. And now Tulsa may become the tenth community in the U.S. to be a Blue Zone Project. The Blue Zone Project aims to help communities around the country live longer and healthier lives, and the Academy believes those are goals we should all strive to achieve.

“Recognizing the fact that Oklahoma has very poor health scores, it is important that concerted efforts be taken by communities to provide sound information, good access, and health options for community members,” said Julie Knutson, Academy President and CEO. “So whether the efforts are the Blue Zone Project or others, we commend community leaders who are being proactive.”

The Oklahoma Academy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving our state, one public policy at a time. But, the Academy doesn’t work alone. They believe the people should have a say in their futures and quality of life, so the Academy engages citizens across Oklahoma and involves those citizens in every step of the proposal process.

However health is not the Academy’s only focus. The Academy has covered a wide range of topics, including education, small business development, government structure, crime, technology and the future, and the state’s constitution. They have achieved many milestones including 53 pieces of legislation being passed since the adoption of the Town Hall process in 2001. 

This year’s Town Hall will focus on how to modernize Oklahoma’s current tax code, one that combines equity, adequacy, simplicity, transparency, and administrative ease. Oklahoma’s current tax code is an amalgamation of individual legislative actions over the past 111 years … hardly strategic in nature and rarely, if ever, tied to a consensus, long-term vision of where the state is headed.

Jennifer Engleman | Jul 9, 2018