Insights in public health: a tale of two polities: health in Independent and American Samoa

Hawaii J Med Public Health. 2015 May;74(5):179-84.


Independent and American Samoa have a shared cultural, genetic, ethnolinguistic, and historical background but have been politically separated since 1899. In this essay, we examine the health of these two polities and identify two key health patterns that have emerged even as American Samoa has achieved a higher per capita income than Independent Samoa. Whereas the gender gap in life expectancy at birth has narrowed in Independent Samoa, this gap has not narrowed in American Samoa and its male life expectancy now lags behind that of Independent Samoa. Neonatal mortality rates in American Samoa are slightly higher than in Independent Samoa. These patterns may be linked to the higher rates of obesity and urbanization observed in American Samoa compared to Independent Samoa, as well as the differing political and institutional arrangements of the two polities. Limited data remains a persistent challenge to conducting analysis of public health in the Pacific islands, particularly in American Samoa.

Keywords: American Samoa; Independent State of Samoa; Insular Areas; Pacific islands; US Territory; chronic diseases; colonization; diabetes; economic development; globalization; heart disease; immunization; neonatal mortality; obesity; political economy; skilled birth attendance; urbanization.

MeSH terms

  • American Samoa
  • Economics / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Independent State of Samoa
  • Male
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care*
  • Public Health / standards*
  • Public Health / statistics & numerical data
  • Public Health / trends*
  • Social Planning*