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Indian mortality rates still high, according to CDC
Thursday, May 3, 2007
Filed Under: Health

The infant mortality rate among American Indian and Alaska Native women has not changed significantly in the past 10 years, according to data released on Wednesday.

In 2004, there were 8.45 deaths per 1,000 live births among Native women, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. That's higher than the national average and the second-highest infant mortality rate among all women.

Furthermore, the rate hasn't changed much in the past decade. Since 1995, infant mortality among Native women has dropped about 6.5 percent.

In comparison, the infant mortality rate dropped by 10.2 percent among White women and by 11.5 percent among Hispanic women. Among women of all racial and ethnic groups, the rate has fallen 10.4 percent in the last decade or so.

"During this 9-year period, decreases have been observed for all race and ethnic groups, although not all had significant declines," the CDC said, excluding Native American women from the "significant" list.

Going by state, South Dakota had an extremely high rate of Indian infant mortality. It was 13.51 per 1,000 live births, or nearly twice the national average, based on data from 2002-2044.

High rates were also reported in Oregon (11.07); Washington (10.53); North Carolina (11.10); and New York (11.03) and Alaska (9.41); Lower rates were reported in Oklahoma (7.81); New Mexico (6.96) and California (6.29).

A second report found that pre-term infant deaths were up slightly in 2004. Native women are less likely to experience pre-term deaths, according to the data.

Risk factors for infant mortality include birthweight, period of gestation, age of mother and smoking. Native women in the Plains, the Pacific Northwest and Alaska report higher use of tobacco than their counterparts in the Southwest and Oklahoma.

The leading cause of infant mortality in 2004 was congenital malformations, deformations and chromosomal abnormalities. This accounted for 20 percent of all infant deaths, according to the CDC. Disorders relating to short gestation and low birthweight was the second leading cause, followed by Sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS.

Going by race, infant mortality rates from congenital malformations were 57 percent higher for Native women, the CDC said. Additionally, SIDS rates were 1.9 times higher for Native women. Finally, 8 percent of Native infant mortality cases were due to unintentional injuries.

"Thus, if American Indian infant mortality rates for these three causes could be reduced to non-Hispanic white levels, the difference in the infant mortality rate between American Indian and non-Hispanic white mothers would be reduced by 51 percent," the report said.

The Indian Health Care Improvement Act bills pending in Congress lists SIDS prevention as one of the areas in which tribes would have greater flexibility to deliver services.

CDC Reports:
Infant Mortality Statistics from the 2004 Period Linked Birth/Infant Death Data Set | Trends in Preterm-Related Infant Mortality by Race and Ethnicity: United States, 1999-2004 | Press Release

Relevant Links:
National Center for Health Statistics, CDC - http://www.cdc.gov/nchs
Indian Health Service - http://www.ihs.gov
National Indian Health Board - http://www.nihb.org

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