FROM THE ARCHIVE

CDC: Death rates at record lows except Indians

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THURSDAY, OCTOBER 11, 2001

Death rates for virtually ever racial and ethnic group dropped noticeably to record lows last year, except for American Indians and Alaska Natives, a federal health report released on Thursday shows.

The decrease in death rates for Native men and women was not "statistically significant," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in "Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2000." Based on final data from 1999 and preliminary data from 2000, the death rate in Indian Country, along with that of white non-Hispanic females, has not changed much.

At the same time, the government cautions that the data for Native American men and women is known to be low. Under-reporting and misreporting of Indians on death certificates could actually increase the already high mortality rate, various studies have shown.

The Indian Health Service, for example, says that the death rate is up to 39 percent higher than the rest of the country. States with high numbers of American Indians and Alaska Natives, like Oklahoma, rank high in misclassification, the IHS has noted.

According to yesterday's report, preliminary 2000 data for Native men shows an age-adjusted death rate of 828.2 per 100,000, down slightly from 824.0 0 in 1999. The age-adjusted mortality rate for Native women was 588.7 per 100,000, again slightly down from 608.5 the year prior.

When compared to other racial and ethnic groups, Native men and women had the third highest age-adjusted mortality rate, behind whites and African-Americans. Native Americans make up less than 1 percent of the nation's population.

Overall, death rates in the country are at a record low. Life expectancy is at a record high of 76.9 years, which Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson attributed to progress fighting major killers such as heart disease and cancer, the two leading causes of death.

"But we can do even more by eating right, exercising regularly and taking other simple steps to promote good health and prevent serious illness and disease," he added.

Also, infant mortality is at a record low. There were 6.9 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 2000, down from 7.1 in 1999.

The report did not break out life expectancy or infant mortality for Indian men and women.

Despite the gains, mortality rates in the nation actually increased for kidney disease, noted as a high-risk in Indian Country. Death from diabetes, considered an epidemic among many Native populations, decreased, however.

Suicide, the second leading cause of death for Native males ages 15 to 24, also decreased nationwide.

Get the Report:
Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2000 (Vol. 49, No. 12. 40 pp. (PHS) 2001-1120)

Related Reports:
Trends in Indian Health 1998-1999 (IHS 1999)
Regional Differences in Indian Health 1998–99 (IHS 1999)

Relevant Links:
Indian Health Service - http://www.ihs.gov

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