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Health
Death rates high among Natives in Washington


Death rates among American Indians and Alaska Natives in Washington have been climbing in what health advocates say is a stunning reversal of decades of progress.

According to the state Department of Health, Native men die at rates higher than any other group. Their life expectancy is 71, the lowest of all men, and six years lower than that of white men.

The death rate for Native women has increased by 20 percent in the last 15 years, according to the state. And Native infants are dying at a rate 44 percent higher than a decade ago.

Health advocates say the data wipes out the gains made by the Indian Health Service. "It's astounding what the agency did, in terms of life expectancy," Joe Finkbonner, the executive director of the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board, told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "But what I'm starting to see, in some of the data, is that that progress has either stagnated or is starting to reverse itself."

Many attribute the rise in death rates to a drop in federal funding. "A lot of tribes used to say, 'Don't get sick after June,' " said Danette Ives, the health director for the Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe. "Now it's like, 'Don't get sick after January.'"

Get the Story:
Native American death rates soar as most people are living longer (The Seattle Post-Intelligencer 3/12)