Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Oklahoma's Health: Not a Pretty Picture

We read in today's Tulsa World that the George Kaiser Family Foundation will donate $50 million to OU-Tulsa to built the nation's first School of Community Medicine.

That sounds like a good thing. But does Tulsa need a School of Community Medicine?

Health statistics show that we do. OU-Tulsa reports that the Sooner state ranks 45th in the number of physicians statewide and 49th in medical doctors per capita.

Then there is this Tulsa statistic: South Tulsans have a 14-year greater life expectancy than North Tulsans. Unsurprisingly, rich folks have better health and longer lives—not to mention better health care—than poor people.

For those of us interested in social justice, this 14-year-gap is an appalling statistic, one that the Kaiser Foundation gift may go some way toward eliminating.


Dan Paden said...

Gents, that gap is not about "social justice," it's about habits and lifestyles. I see it every day; it's part of my work.

Certain things go hand in hand. More smokin,' more drinkin', more hard partyin', less time spent on education and preparation for the workplace, all add up to poorer health, shorter lifespans, and lower income--and often, a residence on the lower-cost North Side. That isn't a lack of justice. Those are just the too-be-expected consequences.

Tulsan said...

What those poorly-disciplined North Tulsans need to do is enlist and go fight the Iraq War. The survivors would grow some backbone.

Dan Paden said...

Now, you be good.:)

Seriously, though, why is anyone surprised when those who stay in school and take care of themselves better wind up making more money and living longer? Isn't that what you would expect? And wouldn't you expect that people making less money would live in older homes--or that people buying their first homes would start out on the North side?

To my mind, it just seems silly to talk about a difference in lifespan as though there were a question of "social justice" involved, when by the relatively simple expedients of not smoking,not drinking, eating a little bit better, getting some regular exercise, one can, for the most part, eliminate that difference. That people who stay in school longer know this, or appreciate it better, doesn't mean the situation is necessarily unjust--it just means that you can't have equality of outcome without equality of--at least--effort. If you're going to blame anyone, blame poor parenting and a social milieu that ridicules learning and achievement.

And in my experience, equality of effort is just darn hard to come by.

Maria said...

I think both Dan and AT have it correct. The overall health of the state of Oklahoma, or any place, is a function of multiple variables. Access to health care is one of those variables. OK is consistently rated quite low in its healthcare, and increasing access to care through such a facility can only improve the overall health of the state.

Tulsan said...

We might well "blame poor parenting and a social milieu that ridicules learning and achievement." But I don't see what's wrong with finding ways to help people who start in that position beat the odds that are stacked against them. Arguably, this could be an excellent investment from the standpoint of a fiscal conservative. Surely it is a better one than the Iraq War.

By the way, Dan, I don't speak for AT, having no connection with it whatever, but I appreciate you posting here, though I rarely seem to agree with you.

Dan Paden said...

...I don't see what's wrong with finding ways to help people who start in that position beat the odds that are stacked against them.

I don't, either! My quibble is principally with assessing the situation as though society--that is, to some degree, me and you--had somehow committed an injustice that resulted in people who persistently engage in risky behavior living shorter lives. To my mind, the reality is that one could argue that injustice would be involved if the people who generally avoided risky behaviors didn't live longer. Put another way, I have no quarrel with trying to educate and agitate for change in the community--I live not terribly far away from North Tulsa myself, in the Kendall-Whittier area--I just don't like seeing society blamed for what is not society's fault.

I do question whether government action is the best way to approach solving the problem. It is always well-intended, but seldom actually solves the problem. As regards poverty in particular, the results of anti-poverty programs have been staggeringly unsuccessful, actually resulting in an exacerbation of the problem instead of its solution.

Now, I'm sure you don't agree with my assessment, but this is one of the key differences between liberals and conservatives and often unappreciated. It's not that liberals are deliberately trying to put unworkable solutions in place, at least not generally, and it's not that conservatives don't care about the problems. We just have an apparently intractable difference of opinion about the way to approach dealing with these things, so intractable that usually the only way to resolve the argument is at the ballot box.

...I appreciate you posting here, though I rarely seem to agree with you.

There are lots of liberal blogs that I could read more often, but this is the only one on my Google Reader list. I do not often agree with what I see here, but since it seems to me that the authors are making a genuine effort to express their differences of opinion civilly, the least I can do is reciprocate in some small manner. :)