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OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin released a statement saying she is glad Oklahoma has improved its health rankings from last year, while also encouraging residents of the state to keep improving.

Governor Fallin released a statement, applauding the efforts by state health officials and Oklahoma’s citizens in making Oklahoma a healthier state, according to the results of a national study.

Oklahoma moved up three spots in the annual America’s Health Rankings report compiled by United Health Foundation.

The 2017 report shows that Oklahoma improved from 46th to 43rd. The improvement was due mostly to decreases in the rates of smoking and low birth weight, according to the report. Only Utah and Florida had a larger state positive change, with each of them moving up four spots.

“Even with budget cuts, our overall health ranking has improved from 49th in the country at the beginning of my term in 2011 to 43rd today,” said Fallin. “That’s good progress, but none of us are going to settle for a ranking of 43rd. Together, we can continue to improve our health.

“As Oklahomans we can do better. We all know that we’re facing a tight state budget, but that doesn’t mean we shift our focus from our health and wellness. It is important not only to the state, but also to us as individuals.”

The annual America’s Health Rankings report ranks states on 35 measures related to people’s health behaviors, their communities, health policy, clinical care, and health outcomes.

Oklahoma’s smoking rate has dropped more percentage points than any other state’s in recent years, falling from 26.1 percent of adults older than 25 in 2012 to 19.6 percent in 2017. Oklahoma ranks 36th on its smoking rate.

About 7.9 percent of Oklahoma babies were born weighing less than five pounds and eight ounces, placing them at risk of immediate and chronic health problems, the report states.

Other findings show Oklahoma ranked in the 10 best on the small percentage of residents who drink excessively, health disparities between people with a college education and those with less schooling, and infections with pertussis, also known as whooping cough.

“Despite the many challenges facing us, I am encouraged that our employees and our partners across the state continue to work toward improving the health of all Oklahomans and that their efforts are producing results,” Interim Health Commissioner Preston Doerflinger said. “We know where our focus must be in providing the core services that will make a difference in the lives of all our citizens going forward.”

Nationally, the report states the nation is facing serious public health challenges, including rising rates of premature death and an uneven concentration of key health care providers.

“We know that each of us has room to improve,” Fallin said. “The numbers bear that out every year. But we are making changes, taking strides to make Oklahoma a great place to be active, and promoting a culture of activity and wellness.

“Many Oklahoma businesses have realized that employee health, company productivity and growth are interdependent. That’s why businesses across Oklahoma are increasingly turning to wellness programs that include physical activity because they lead to healthy lifestyle changes, increased productivity, and decreased absenteeism and health care costs.”