ATLANTA - The health status of Ottawa County residents is similar to that of other Oklahoma residents concludes a final public health assessment released Tuesday by the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry and the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

The agencies reviewed health information from all state databases compiled between 1994 and 2005.

The databases included Oklahoma state cancer and birth defects registries, special education and newborn screening programs, death certificates, and a telephone survey of health conditions in adults.

A public comment version of the report was released in November 2006, and the agencies presented findings of their health outcome data analysis at public meetings. Also, state and federal health agencies met with the Ottawa County Health Department to discuss the results of this public health assessment and to determine if any additional health education activities were warranted.

The public health assessment concludes:

Most diseases and health conditions occur at similar rates in Ottawa County and the state of Oklahoma.

Among infants and children, most diseases or health conditions - such as rates of low-birth weight babies, and preterm babies, and the prevalence of hearing loss in newborns - occur at similar or lower rates in Ottawa County.

The occurrence of autism and learning disabilities in children from Ottawa County is similar to that in the state. Birth defect rates are lower than the state rates for seven of the nine years monitored.

For the top 10 cancers, such as breast, prostate, lung, colorectal, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and bladder, the number of new cases from 1997 to 2003 in Ottawa County and in the five zip code area surrounding the Tar Creek Superfund site is similar to cancer occurrence in the state.

Death rates in Ottawa County are similar to or lower than the state's death rate for blood pressure, liver disease, diabetes, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer's disease and kidney disease. The death rate from heart disease in Ottawa County is higher than the death rate for the state. The higher death rate for heart disease in Ottawa County may be due to chance variation.

The public health assessment analyzed the rates of diseases and heath conditions for Ottawa County residents and other Oklahoma residents.

The state databases contain no exposure information on the cases in the database. Therefore, the results of the public health assessment cannot be used to determine whether contamination from the Tar Creek Superfund site directly contributes to disease and death in Ottawa County.

ATSDR expects to conduct additional meetings to evaluate the feasibility of a health outcome data review focused on American Indians and other residents who live in and around the Tar Creek Superfund Site.

To review the public health assessment and ATSDR's Plan for Tar Creek, visit www.atsdr.cdc.gov/sites/tarcreek. A copy of the assessment is also filed at the Miami Public Library.

Community members can contact ATSDR for more information about the public health assessment by calling Steve Dearwent, PhD, at 770-488-3665 or e-mailing him at SDearwent@cdc.gov.

ATSDR, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, evaluates the human health effects of exposure to hazardous substances.