Su An Phipps Ph.D., R.N., Director, Healthy Women, Healthy Futures-Oklahoma
A Program of the Community Service Council
Tulsa’s Community Service Council (CSC) is celebrating its 80th year of service this year. CSC’s vision is a community empowered to ignite opportunities and eliminate disparities for all people across the lifespan. Our mission is to confront challenges to health, social, education and economic opportunities, and to strategically advance effective community-based solutions.
The Tulsa Equality Indicators Report, jointly prepared by CSC’s Department of Innovative Data and Research and the Mayor’s Office of Resilience and Equity, brings to our attention Tulsa’s community needs and progress in addressing disparities. While public health is one of the highest scoring areas, with some of the lowest disparity scores, the unfortunate truth is that we, in Oklahoma and in Tulsa, are generally not healthy. Oklahoma consistently ranks as one of the five lowest states in preventive care, women’s life expectancy, women’s health and safety, uninsured women, adverse childhood experiences, infant mortality and maternal mortality.
Indicator #40 from the Tulsa Equality Indicators report on infant mortality rate (IMR) shows promise. Both the Black and White IMR have decreased, possibly demonstrating the effectiveness of Tulsa’s maternal-child public health programs such as CSC’s Healthy Start and Healthy Women, Healthy Futures-Oklahoma, as well as others such as Tulsa Health Department’s Healthy Start, Children First, the BEST initiative, and Tulsa Birth Equity. Disappointingly, the Equality Indicators report’s IMR disparity rate has not decreased accordingly.
In an effort to reduce disparities in public health, CSC was recently selected to serve as the backbone organization to convene Tulsa’s public health and community health care providers to pilot maternal safety bundles for the Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health Community Care Initiative (AIM-CCI). The goal of this multi-year initiative is to reduce/eliminate maternal mortality and morbidity through standardization of prenatal and postpartum care delivery, while eliminating disparities.
Two additional CSC programs that focus on improving access to health information are The Power of Families Project and the Sia Mah Nu Program (Woman Who Teaches), both of which collaborate with community partners to address the health and education needs of Tulsa’s Hispanic/Latinx and Burmese immigrant and refugee populations. Both programs use bilingual and bicultural community peer workers/educators (promotoras or sia mah nu) to remove the unique barriers that impede families’ access to health care, education, and community engagement. Through the efforts of the two programs, families are assisted with various needs, are referred to culturally responsive services, are better address their social determinants of health, and are better informed about their health (both physical and emotional). Program efforts also facilitate the inclusion of Hispanic/Latinx and Burmese “voices” in community planning initiatives through community conversations/focus groups.
To support a wide array of needs across the community, such as health, mental health, housing, food, and much more, CSC’s 211 Eastern Oklahoma serves more than 10,000 Oklahomans each month as a free and confidential helpline available 24/7. 211 Eastern Oklahoma maintains a highly accurate comprehensive database of 1,141 provider agencies representing 9,864 vetted services across 37 counties. During the pandemic, 211 Eastern Oklahoma staff experienced extremely high call volumes as they responded around the clock to many thousands of calls from Tulsans in crisis, needing access to health resources, financial services and critical information.
Another community served by CSC is that of returning veterans, a transition that can be deeply challenging for some and that can lead to health, mental health, housing and/or financial hardships. CSC’s Oklahoma Veteran Alliance and Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) programs help veterans and their families make the cultural transition from active duty to civilian life, including access to resources and addressing veterans’ mental health needs. Equality Indicator #39 addresses improvements in Tulsa’s veterans’ clinic appointments and access to care.
Internally, no matter what program CSC staff are directly involved with or work for, the overarching desire of the more than 60 staff members is to eliminate disparities and create equitable opportunities for all, while valuing and respecting the uniqueness of each individual within the organization.