O’Connor: NE renaissance builds community (Journal Record)

Northeast Oklahoma City is an area rich with Oklahoma history and culture. It is also an area that faces more serious economic and health issues than the rest of the city.

According to a comprehensive lifestyle report conducted by the Lynn Institute for Healthcare Research, northeast Oklahoma City is one of the most impoverished areas within our state. The area lacks access to health care, fitness resources such as trails and gyms, healthy food choices and other factors that contribute to poor health statistics. A collaboration among several groups and organizations seeks to address these and other quality-of-life issues.

This community coalition consists of diverse leaders in business, funding, health and social services. The goal is to develop and adopt a sustainable 10-year plan to improve the overall health of the community. The Lynn Health Community group is currently in the process of recruiting people to join the initiative, including educators, health officials, business owners and community residents.

Economic development also plays a critical role in the health of a community’s residents. Ward 7 is the third-largest ward in Oklahoma City with 140 square miles and 33,000 residents and yet it is the only community where residents must travel out of the ward for necessities, like fresh grocery options and medical care. More than half of the respondents in the Lynn research cited economics and infrastructure as the primary reasons that they have not received the recommended preventive services for a healthy community.

Investing in blighted areas raises the quality of life and the community. Councilman John Pettis has been a tireless champion in getting developers and business to reinvest in his ward. One of his recent projects is working with architect and developer Rick Brown to redevelop the Northeast Shopping Center at NE 36th Street and N. Kelley Avenue using tax increment financing. The center already has interest from grocery and sporting goods stores, as well as other retail and service businesses.

Economic development is more than investing in real estate, it is also about investing in people. There are multiple emerging health and economic opportunities to help improve the quality of life in northeast Oklahoma City, and we will all need to play our part.

Cathy O’Connor is the president of the Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City.

See the original article at journalrecord.com.

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