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Oklahoma health care outcomes rank poorly among all racial and ethnic groups, study finds

National Cancer Institute

Oklahoma’s health care systems are performing poorly among people from all racial and ethnic backgrounds, according to a new national study.

The performance of Oklahoma’s health care systems only exceeds West Virginia and Mississippi, according to a report conducted by health research and policy nonprofit the Commonwealth Fund.

The nonprofit’s 2024 State Health Disparities Report analyzes how health care systems are functioning by state, and race and ethnicity. It includes data on five different racial and ethnic groups, including Black, white, Hispanic, American Indian and Alaska Native, and Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander populations.

To better understand what health care access, outcomes and quality looked like by state, researchers collected data on 25 different indicators. Examples include deaths before 75 from treatable causes, infant mortality rates, uninsured adults and children, and adults with dental visits.

Those indicators were applied to the five racial and ethnic groups the Commonwealth Fund compiled data on and used to calculate a score of up to 100 for each group. This “health system performance” score was used to rank states and the District of Columbia overall.

White Oklahomans scored the highest in the state at 47 out of 100. But that’s still below the nation’s average health system performance score of 50 out of 100.

Hispanic Oklahomans experienced the worst outcomes at only four out of 100. The report found that southwestern and mountain states like Oklahoma have higher premature death rates among Hispanic residents than other states.

  • Black Oklahomans had a health system performance score of 10 out of 100. 
  • Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Oklahomans had a health system performance score of 44 out of 100. 
  • American Indian and Alaska Native Oklahomans had a health system performance score of 11 out of 100. Oklahoma ranked fourth among the ten states with a large enough American Indian and Alaska Native population to measure. 

Significant disparities exist among Oklahomans who are not white. Dr. Laurie Zephyrin, the Commonwealth Funds’ senior vice president for advancing health equity, said this report lays out some of these persistent disparities that people of color experience in accessing and receiving quality care across the U.S.
“We must do better — and we can start by rooting out pervasive racial and ethnic bias and inequities in our health care system to ensure everyone gets the care and coverage they need,” Zephyrin said.

StateImpact Oklahoma is a partnership of Oklahoma’s public radio stations which relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online.

Jillian Taylor reports on health and related topics for StateImpact Oklahoma.
StateImpact Oklahoma reports on education, health, environment, and the intersection of government and everyday Oklahomans. It's a reporting project and collaboration of KGOU, KOSU, KWGS and KCCU, with broadcasts heard on NPR Member stations.
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