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A Thank You to the OU Graduate Social Work Dept (and many other unsung heroes), Or The Real Reason You Haven't Heard About Why The Life Expectancy Gap Between Here and South Tulsa Has Narrowed But At 10 Plus Years Is Still Outrageous

In posts below under Our Community Blog you will read about the recent study showing a narrowing of the infamous 14 year life expectancy gap between here in the 74126 and in South Tulsa, narrowing down to an equally outrageous 10.7 years gap. What I want to detail out here is about the real heroes not mentioned by many in the media for this narrowing. And as I have just been talking about this with OU grad social work students, I want to spend a little time lifting up the impact by the Grad Social Work Dept. and others at OU for being a part of the narrowing, and supporting those who have been doing the work narrowing the gap. I could do the same for many of the others I mention, and so many more, in the original post on the gap narrowing that was published here in the link below. 
I have had as usual a wonderful time talking with the OU Graduate Social Work classes this week (next one will be on Saturday morning, Sept. 26), introducing our story, personal and about the foundation and our work, and especially teaching about our area and health disparities, voter disparities, housing disparities, food justice disparities, civic health and engagement, environmental racism and injustice, and the ways big and small that far north Tulsa has born the brunt of racism and classism in particular that has been a prime factor in the rise of poverty and its affects in our area; also on the emotional side of how shame paralyzes both residents who live here and those who might help by moving here or helping from where they are and along with the survival mode of deep poverty keeps people isolated from one another. 
Always so much more to say. I try not to forget to talk about our area's strengths and the resiliency of our folks and what they have to teach others, and do, and have had fun telling some stories out of the many about that. I Enjoyed talking about our approach of being an "anti-agency" and of the ways particularly that the social work dept at OU in partnership with us has made such a dent in that life expectancy gap. I went to celebrate with them the news and to mourn that we still have such wide health disparities, disparities that are all linked together. 
Here then in what is written below is just one window into why the gap has narrowed; I can and should go into the details for how all the other grassroots groups and relationships here are producing results: (and I don't want to downplay the institutional big investments that have been made recently, but as I said in the post below they are very needed but have a limited scope no matter how much is invested in them; studies have shown that the social determinants are what extends lives and enriches them, and those are what social work and ministry and teachers and law enforcement and businesses and activists and various nonprofits and causes on the ground in the 74126 by the 74126 for the 74126 are a part of creating. For these social determinants are effective because they are all about building and growing relationships among the people, and between the people and others; and that takes long time committment, and it requires out of the box ways to connect and connect with people in poverty and oppression. For more on this, see the link to the work we did with Lead North on civic engagement and trust; as well as the research we did with OU on health care and trust that I mention below and is posted on about three or four years ago when we did the research.) 
BUT CONSIDER THIS: OU Social Work Dept. and its links to other OU partners have helped us in these WOW ways.
1. do our Community Forums to begin it all
2. helped bring in the OU Health Clinic to our space before there was a health department or OSU clinic or OU Tisdale clinic
3. Set up our Foundation and its Board Retreats
4. Cast the vision with us and helped initial promotional efforts for our Community GardenPark Welcome Table Garden Park and Orchard
5. Helped start our Free Food Store pantry program with the Food Bank.
6. Re-Greened our Area with 600 trees through us after the 2007 Ice Storm
7. Brought in medical students to hear about social determinants of health in our area. And collaborated on coming up with disruptive innovation to the health status quo by looking at ways mentiond below to decentralize the delivery of health care and build up the economic and relational base of the community; we were going for an X Prize but that didnt work, but it shaped our learning.
8. Three years of social work interns here. One with the community center beginning; one with a focus on food justice; one with a focus on new forms of health care
9. A 2009 Nutrition Study of our area that showed 60 percent of residents cannot afford healthy food and other important data on food justice and health outcomes
10. A 2013 study of ours and two other food pantries as part of the Choices Study that showed how much intense food insecurity, ie hunger, is in those who come to us, and how the food we give out is so important but also not the healthiest food they need, but provides the calories they need to get by, and how much mental illness affects our neighbors whom we related with, and who help us.
11. Helped us come up with that still wonderful but laying fallow pilot project to not rely on clinics for health care (especially needed since Oklahoma did not expand Medicaid, by hiring people from our zip codes here and training them to be neighborhood lay health advocates, engaged in research with us to show its efficacy.
12. When Cherokee School Closed here, the OU Graduate Design STudio did a community based school building repurposing project that was later used to back up the current reopening as a public charter school. The Design Studio also helped come up with the initial plan that helped fundraise for our gardenpark and orchard
13. Each semester the classes take on both "small but important projects helping at the community center and gardenpark" and looking at research into the broad topics that we deal with, and come up with plans and innovations tried in other areas and consider how we can use them here. Lately focused on mental health and teen pregnancy and other issues of connecting with people, of street lights and sidewalks (i will post on later).
SO WOW, right? This is how you narrow the life expectancy gap, and it is being done also by other groups right here in the neighborhoods. 
I know I am forgetting some other of the great partnerships with them that have brought hope and new energy into far north, and have contributed to that all important social determinants of health that have the highest impact on extending life expectancy. We are always trying for new partnerships, deeper relationships, for so much work and renewal that still is needed here. Stay tuned for more.
It is a privilege to tell each new class coming in about the great work and its impact here. And for them to see what is possible when neighbors themselves come together and dream and learn and take action in a high poverty area can without paid positions and struggles financial and with revolving leadership and working against the great viewpoints of apathy despair and scarcity; and for them to see all that has been done has been done not only by passionate people without pay (imagine what could be done with it?) but also by a very few people. I hope we boggled minds and continue to do so. .

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