Native American death rates top all groups

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Death rates among native Americans are high and climbing for men, women and infants, Vanessa Ho reported in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Ho found that “the downward drift, which reflects national trends, stems from entrenched health disparities exacerbated by years of inadequate funding.”

A recent state Department of Health report showed that the march against cancer, heart disease and infant mortality has largely bypassed Native Americans. In 2006, the latest year studied, Native American men were dying at the highest rate of all people, with little change since the early ’90s. Their life expectancy was 71, the lowest age of all men, and six years lower than that of white men.

The news was just as grim for Native American women. Their death rate had surged by 20 percent in a 15-year period, while the overall death rate had decreased by 17 percent.

But the starkest health disparity was among babies. Native American babies were dying at a rate 44 percent higher than a decade ago, while the overall rate of infant deaths had declined.

Ho discovered that tribes are running out of annual health-care money sooner than ever, and that lack of preventative medicine and poor dietary habits have only exacerbated health problems among Native Americans.

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