BY SHARON MARTIN
Oklahoma ranks 48th in health outcomes, and Gov. Mary Fallin has a fix for the problem – no more smoking at the state Capitol.
She’s turning the smoking room at the Capitol into a fitness center for legislators and their staffs.
That’s a good plan, but it does nothing for the 277,000 children living in poverty in Oklahoma, and we know that poverty is at the root of many health problems.
Cheap processed foods are more affordable than fruits and vegetables. Schools cut PE programs and recess time to focus on testing and to save money. Sugary drink ads are targeted to children, drinks that are cheaper than milk and fruit juices.
Then there’s the problem of the uninsured. Oklahomans have been misled to believe that somehow it is bad for everyone to be covered by insurance. Even the uninsured complain about losing their freedom.
Well, I have the freedom to do without preventive care, and it has crippled me. Hooray for the freedom to be crippled! Hooray for the freedom to choose between bankruptcy and an early death!
Teen pregnancy is another factor leading to Oklahoma’s bottom ranking. Legislators deny young people access to birth control information with abstinence-only education, and they lambast the federal government when insurance companies are required to offer birth control to the insured.
If you don’t have insurance or if you don’t receive family planning education, you are more likely to have unwanted pregnancies. If you are young, poor, and under-educated, you are more likely to have low-birth-weight babies who place further demands on state resources.
Sylvia Allegretto, in a 2004 report for the Economic Policy Institute, wrote, “Although children have no responsibility for living in poverty, they are penalized not only in childhood but later in life if their health or education suffers from a lack of resources.”
The Affordable Care Act seeks to address some of the health issues, including those of the under-insured middle class and the lack of preventive care. Meanwhile, state legislators thwart any progress, even turning down federal funds to start a state insurance exchange.
Why? As a taxpayer, I think universal health insurance is a fine use for my tax contributions.
A workout room for legislators, also paid for with my taxes, will do little to fix the ills of poverty and poor health. That takes real money, real programs, and the resolve to address the problems.
– Sharon Martin lives in Oilton, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer