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New Initiative Led by OU’s Hudson College of Public Health to Assess Oklahoma’s Readiness for Future Pandemics

Published: Tuesday, November 9, 2021

OKLAHOMA CITY – The University of Oklahoma’s Hudson College of Public Health is launching a multi-sector initiative to assess the state’s preparedness for future pandemics and other public health threats.

The Achieving a Healthy Oklahoma initiative has assembled community leaders from across the public and private sectors to evaluate the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and to develop policy recommendations aimed at preparing Oklahomans for future public health emergencies, as well as suggestions for improving Oklahoma’s population health.

Housed within the OU Center for Public Health Practice at the Hudson College of Public Health, the initiative aims to take a proactive approach that will ultimately lead to an expansion of public health infrastructure and workforce; strengthened partnerships with federal, state and local public health agencies; evidence-based policy development; and a reduction in health disparities.  

“The greatest threat that we face is entering another pandemic without a modernized response,” said Gary Cox, associate dean and director of the OU Center for Public Health Practice. “Oklahomans are no strangers to adversity and hard work – we pull ourselves up and do what needs to be done to help our neighbors and our communities. This fortitude and determination will be the foundation for our work through the Achieving a Healthy Oklahoma initiative – driven by private, business and philanthropic partnerships. Now is the time to come together, to plan and to show the world how exceptional Oklahoma is.”

To fully assess the state’s pandemic preparedness and to develop local and statewide policy recommendations, a steering committee comprised of community leaders, business leaders, philanthropists, educators and entrepreneurs has been formed.

The committee, through a series of community listening sessions in 11 cities across the state, along with three sessions with tribal communities, will engage community members to better understand the successes and shortcomings with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic response.

In addition, the committee will commission four workgroups – comprised of diverse subject matter experts representing each respective sector – to study the impacts of public health issues on business, education, local communities and health care in Oklahoma, using their analysis to generate action steps for each sector.

Part of the initiative will also involve collaborative discussions and strategy development with other states and national agencies to best align efforts across the board.

A comprehensive report of the committee’s findings and recommendations is expected to be complete during the first half of 2022 and will be presented to local, state, and national leaders and policymakers. The next step will be to work with community and business leaders, policymakers, advocates and others within Oklahoma to implement the recommendations and ensure that the state is prepared for future public health emergencies.

The OU Hudson College of Public Health is uniquely positioned to facilitate the Achieving a Healthy Oklahoma initiative and the overall work of OU’s Center for Public Health Practice. As director of the center, Cox is a former commissioner of the Oklahoma State Department of Health, as well as former executive director of the Oklahoma City-County Health Department and the Tulsa Health Department. Serving as the center’s associate director is Neil Hann, chair of the college’s Department of Health Promotion Sciences, director of experiential learning and director of the bachelor of public health undergraduate program. Hann previously served as assistant deputy commissioner and chief of community development services for the Oklahoma State Department of Health. Together, Cox and Hann bring more than 80 years of public health practice experience to guide these efforts.

“I am excited about the expertise and depth of experience that Gary and Neil bring to leading this center and the new initiative,” said Gary Raskob, dean of the Hudson College of Public Health. “I have no doubt that they, working in collaboration with the strong expertise within our faculty, will play an important role in our effort to strengthen our partnership and cooperative efforts with our state, and local health departments, and with our non-governmental partners, for the benefit of improving population health in Oklahoma.”

To learn more about the Achieving a Healthy Oklahoma initiative, visit

Below is the link to the News 9 story: