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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. .


Our 74126 Zipcode LIfe Expectancy Gap Narrows Over Past Eight Years We Have Been Open

Celebration and Committment!!!!! From just under 14 years to just over 10 and a half year life expectancy gap between here in the 74126 and the 74137 out south since the Levin Study of eight years ago; not coincidentally it was eight years ago that we did our missional transformation and began A Third Place Community Center and hosted the OU Community Health Clinic and followed by the Foundation and the gardenpark and orchard and the community center, and three years ago with the arrival of the Tulsa Health Dept. Wellness Center here in our zipcode; and now with all of our formerly closed school buildings back in use as schools.

We were expecting this news, and the gap to narrow as the report was about to be released. Several big things happening since 2007; we think in a way here in the 74126 we have been one of the best kept secrets working on this, even though the decline and abandonment continues, and the lack of medicaid expansion still hurts us. But it shows again that truth (also documented by OU and the Dartmouth Study the OU physicians went to up in NH, that social determinants of health, the communities of people live in, the hope, the allies, etc. they have, are more vital to life expectancy itself than clinic access and clinic medicine though of course that is vital too (why I only half joke with my physician spouse that she does more healing at the community gardenpark and orchard and community center than in her clinic work :)). That 10 and a half year gap remains. One quick way to eliminate it is to get healthy people, civic groups, businesses, etc. to move into the 74126 as did the Tulsa Health Dept.
See important links in the comments below.

To understand more about the social determinants of health and especially our area, see my article here

Please share this post and my comments. blessings, thanks for all you who have been walking and working with us and others in the 74126 these past eight years. This is for you too.


Going Deeper Into the Oklahoma Voter Facebook Meme

It is not just low voter numbers, but look closer at the numbers themselves and you will see the huge gaps reflecting who votes and who doesn’t based on income and ethnicity. Not only did a small number of people elect the political leaders last year, but those small number were the whitest and the wealthiest.

I have been tracking and analyzing and commenting on voter disparities and we were a partner at the recent Voting Is Power Summit where our report was part of the report given on voting and civic health and physical and mental health disparities and the connections between them all. You can see all the details at our website under the community blog posts on voting. Here is a quick summary to go along with the meme map going around.

Our area of Tulsa’s northside is part of the low life expectancy high poverty zipcodes. In our two mile service area radius of far north we have 7 precinct polling places. They cover some or all of four zipcodes; first this compares to one zipcode in south Tulsa, 74133, which has 15 precinct polling places just within its one zipcode. Distance to polling places is further apart for those who are poorer and with fewer transportation options. 

In our immediate 7 precinct area, there were only 2,036 votes cast (of these the losing candidate for Governor, the Democrat, won by 1,723 to 263, or with 84.6 percent; compare that with Tulsa County’s 40.3 percent to the Democrat (the Repubican victor has 56.9 percent county wide). The vast majority which did vote voted for the losing candidate, with the resulting effect of less political influence, voice, representation of concerns, etc. That 2,036 vote reflects 25.1 percent of registered voters in the 7 precincts, or only one out of four registered voters (not to mention, as the facebook meme does, the total number of adult citizens eligible to vote).

The2,036 vote turnout in our total 7 precincts in our service boundaries, with some of the lowest percentage turnout, also compares to the eight precincts in just the one midtown zip code, 74114, which has the highest percentage turnout, and highest life expectancy, and which cast 5,379 votes. That is 63 percent more votes cast in one zipcode than in all of the all or parts of four zipcodes in our far north area. My precinct in far north Tulsa in the 74126 had the lowest turnout percentage, 20 percent, or only one in five registered in our precinct; compared to one precinct in the 74114 which had almost 50 percent turnout (thirty percent turnout gap) and the whole 74114 zipcode with its eight precincts had a turnout rate of 45.5 percent. There is an ethnic component as well. The 74126, and particularly my precinct in it,  precinct nine, has one of the highest African American percentages of Tulsa zipcodes, while The 74114 has one of the highest white percentages.  

Looking beyond our far north context to all of North Tulsa: there are another 21 precincts in all of North Tulsa for a total of 28 precincts for North Tulsa compared to 177 total for Tulsa (not counting the ones covering other cities and areas in Tulsa County as a whole, but just concentrated in the city limits basically). That gives North Tulsa some 16 percent of the total number of precincts for the approximate whole city area; or the other three geographic sides of the city have 84 percent of the voting precincts, and so even with a much higher voter turnout on the northside, if there is a concurrent higher vote turnout elsewhere in the city will result in the northside continuing to be statistically left out of city-wide issues and votes (not to mention voting on the losing side of issues and elections). That reality feeds the cynicism and despair which feeds, among other factors, the low turnout.

Overall North Tulsa area, mostly incorporated city of Tulsa but includes some unincorporated adjacent to Tulsa City and includes the areas of northeast Tulsa where there is a higher white percentage than in near North and far North sections, there is An overall Total of 30,197 registered voters. Of that amount, 8,199 voted, or 27.1 percent turnout, a little more than one in four.

By the way, That most populous zipcode, the 74133 in south Tulsa, with 15 precincts in it alone, accounts for 20,505 registered voters (that alone equals two thirds of the total vote in all of North Tulsa); and in the latest election, in the 74133 zip, some 7,760 voted; if just 439 more people had voted in the 74133 of south Tulsa then it would have equaled the total vote turnout for ALL of North Tulsa zipcodes. 

As is, its turnout amounted to 37.8 percent of those registered in the 74133 zipcode; that ten percent gap higher than all of North Tulsa turnout, and almost 13 percent higher than far north turnout, is less overall than the thirty percent gap between the highest and lowest precinct turnout, but it is still significant.  

Raising consciousness is the first part of the response; this is mostly what this analysis does. Looking at a wide variety of reform measures, and improving the civic health of North Tulsa in general, is where to turn next. Better Voter information, better transportation options, more polling places in high poverty areas, uniform polling places in each part of town open to any regardless of where they live, mobile polling places, allowing more felons to vote and more publicity to let eligible felons know they can register and vote already, default registration, and a host of other reform initiatives working in others areas.