Oklahoma consistently remains near the bottom of health rankings for the U.S., falling to 47th in the 2018 report from the United Health Foundation. The state joins other Southern states in receiving an overall health grade of "F" for overall mortality on the most recent State of States Health Report.
But Payne County is a bright spot in the state, and is ranked among the healthiest in a number of areas.
That report came from Kelli Rader, Regional Director for the Payne, Noble, Kay and Pawnee County health departments, during the League of Women Voters of Stillwater’s monthly Hot Topics session.
Rader said based on the State of Oklahoma’s 2017 health report card, Payne County had fewer teen pregnancies and a lower number of diabetics and smokers than most counties in the state. It was the most physically active county and had the third lowest obesity rate.
Payne County is in the top 10 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties for vaccination rates but continues to struggle with getting children their fourth and final shot in their DTaP series. The vaccination helps develop immunity against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis which is commonly called whooping cough. A booster at age 11 provides protection into the adult years.
Thanks to immunization programs, the diseases are not common anymore and many people don’t realize how serious they can be. All three diseases are bacterial infections that can be vaccinated against in a single shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Diphtheria causes a thick covering in the back of the throat and can lead to breathing problems, paralysis, heart failure and death.
Tetanus causes painful tightening of the muscles, usually all over the body. It can lead to “locking” of the jaw rendering the victim unable to open their mouth or swallow. It leads to death in about 1 in 10 cases, according to the CDC.
Pertussis is a highly contagious respiratory tract infection that initially resembles an ordinary cold but may turn more serious, especially in infants.
Rader said the DTaP sequence is usually given at 2,4, 6 and 12-18 months of age. The most common reason for missing the last dose is missing appointments and getting off schedule, because there needs to be a six month gap between the third and fourth shots.
She said Payne County has good rates for MMR or Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccination. Rader said the childhood doses confer about 93% immunity and a booster before high school raises that to 97%.
Stillwater had the first measles outbreak in decades about five years ago.
Rader said MMR boosters for adults are commended for people born after 1957 who don’t have evidence of immunity if they work in a health care setting or will be traveling, especially internationally.
“It doesn’t take much for someone to become ill if you don’t have immunity,” she said.
The anti-vaccination movement has made an impact internationally and other countries are also struggling with measles outbreaks. The Ukraine is fighting it now and France had an outbreak a few years ago, Rader said.
A category where Payne County doesn’t fare as well is nutrition. At least two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables per day are recommended.
Less than half of Payne County’s residents eat at least one serving of fruit per day and even fewer eat vegetables. The county’s number is 5-6% below the state average, Rader said.
Behavioral health is another area where the county struggles.
Payne County has a much higher than average rate of deaths caused by motor vehicle accidents than the state average and a greater incidence of binge drinking.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus status in our area is not out of the state range, Rader said. But she noted that sexually transmitted disease rates are up in some other counties. It’s a troubling trend.
Oklahoma City recently had what Rader described as a “huge” outbreak of syphilis as a co-infection with HIV and antibiotic-resistant strains of gonorrhea are becoming more common.
Rader said the Payne County Health Department has offices in Stillwater and Cushing. The Cushing office is currently open three days a week but she is hoping to extend that to four.
The Kay County sites are in Ponca City, open five days a week, and Blackwell, which is currently open two days but will go to three days in July.
She says budget is the biggest problem when it comes to providing public health services. The county health departments depend on ad valorem or property taxes for much of their funding.
In Payne County, entities like OSU own large tracts of land that aren’t on the tax rolls, making much less funding available.