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EpiCenter publishes second edition of Alaska Native Health Status Report

October 30, 2017




In order to create positive health outcomes, we first must be well informed about the overall health of our people.

The Alaska Native Epidemiology Center, also known as the EpiCenter, recently published the second edition of the Alaska Native Health Status Report, which covers a range of health indicators and provides data for Alaska Native people.

The report provides a statewide overview of the health status of Alaska Native people living in Alaska. The data can help demonstrate significant health improvements that have been achieved among Alaska Native people. In addition, health areas of concern and inequities in health status can be readily identified.

The EpiCenter has divided the state into 12 tribal health regions, which allows for the use of readily available data. In general, the Tribal health regions closely align with the service areas of the regional Tribal health organizations.

The health indicators reported are used as measures of various dimensions of health status and were selected based on their importance to population health, data availability and relationship to key health issues within the Alaska Tribal Health System. Indicators include health outcomes, health risk behaviors and health protective factors. The different measures assess different aspects of health, including measures that cover the lifespan and known factors of health.

The data in the report tells a small part of the story. There are areas where reliable and local data are not readily available, and we recognize the report is not exhaustive. We also recognize that each data point represents groups of individuals and their families and they are not just statistics. Furthermore, information gained from interpretation of data are only part of the decision-making process. Nevertheless, the data provides a small snapshot of where we are and can help guide advocacy, policy-making, program planning and program evaluation. We hope the report serves as a useful resource for those interested in working to improve Alaska Native health.

The report can be downloaded online, here: http://anthctoday.org/epicenter/publications/HealthStatusReport/AN_HealthStatusReport_FINAL2017.pdf.

 

Highlights from the report include:

Sociodemographics

  • In 2015, there were approximately 153,070 Alaska Native people using the Alaska Tribal Health System.
  • More than a third of the Alaska Native population is under the age of 20 years.
  • The largest growth in the Alaska Native population has been in the 60- 74 age group.
  • Disparities exist for the Alaska Native population on a number of measures of socioeconomic status such as educational attainment, poverty and household income, as compared to Alaska White and U.S. White populations.

Mortality

  • Alaska Native life expectancy is 70.7 years.
  • The leading causes of death for Alaska Native people are cancer, heart disease and unintentional injury.
  • Mortality rates have decreased significantly for all-causes, heart disease and unintentional injury during the past 35 years. Infant mortality rates have also decreased significantly.
  • There has been no improvement in cancer and suicide mortality rates, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease mortality rates have increased significantly during the past 35 years.
  • Unintentional injury accounts for nearly a quarter of all years of potential life lost from premature death.
  • Disparities exist between Alaska Native people and Alaska non-Native and U.S. White populations on a number of mortality measures including life expectancy, infant mortality and leading causes of death.

Morbidity

  • Cancer incidence rates have increased significantly among Alaska Native people during the past 40 years.
  • The leading types of cancer among Alaska Native people are colon/rectum, lung and breast cancer.
  • Approximately 5 percent of the Alaska Native population has been diagnosed with diabetes, a significantly lower proportion than the U.S. White population.
  • Chlamydia and gonorrhea infection rates among Alaska Native people are significantly higher than Alaska non-Native and U.S. White populations. The highest number of infections are among females aged 15-34 years.

Maternal, Infant and Child Health

  • Total birth and teen birth rates have decreased significantly during the past two decades.
  • About three-quarters of Alaska Native mothers begin prenatal care during the first trimester.
  • More than 90 percent of Alaska Native mothers initiate breastfeeding and more than 70 percent are still breastfeeding their infant at eight weeks postpartum.
  • More than a third of Alaska Native mothers report using tobacco during pregnancy.

For more information about the Alaska Native Epidemiology Center, visit www.anthctoday.org/epicenter.


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