Objectives: This article compared mortality data (1999-2003) for Alaska Natives (AN), U.S. white residents (USW), and Alaska white residents (AKW), and examined changes in mortality rates from 1979 to 2003.
Methods: We used SEERStat* software from the National Cancer Institute to calculate age-adjusted mortality rates.
Results: The AN all-cause mortality rate was 40% higher (rate ratio [RR]=1.4) than the rate for both the USW and AKW populations. Based on comparisons with USW, the largest disparities in AN mortality were found for unintentional injuries (RR=3.0), suicide (RR=3.1), and homicide (RR=4.4). Disparities were also found for eight of the 10 leading causes of death, including cancer (AN/USW RR=1.3), cerebrovascular disease (RR=1.3), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (RR=1.4), pneumonia/influenza (RR=1.6), and chronic liver disease (RR=2.0). In contrast, the mortality rate for heart disease among AN was significantly lower (RR=0.9) than for USW, and lower-though not significantly lower-for diabetes. Findings were quite similar when rates for AN were compared with AKW. AKW also had high rates of unintentional injury mortality and suicide compared with USW, but the magnitude of the difference was much less for AKW. From 1979 to 2003, mortality rates among AN declined 16% for all causes, similar to the USW decline of 15%.
Conclusions: Monitoring mortality rates and their trends is essential not only to understand the health status of a population but also to target areas for prevention and evaluate the impact of policy change or the effect of interventions over time.