Life Expectancy on the Res(ervation)
sabez at u.washington.edu
Tue Jun 10 11:08:54 PDT 2003
The follow news story illustrates a number of issues worth considering.
It is hard to deal with small numbers (<4500 people) so the statisticians
would want confidence intervals, but this is not unlike data for larger
That said, how does one point out the carnage happening here and inspire a
structural response, rather than the perception that it is lifestyle that
The life expectancy of 47 is in the range of Burkina Faso, Guinea, or The
Gambia, which is quite an achievement for the richest and most powerful
country in world history! STephen
Study: Tribe's average age of death is 47 Warm Springs' No. 1 cause of
death from 1991 to 2000 was accidents.
The Associated Press June 9, 2003
WARM SPRINGS -- Retirees flock to Central Oregon hoping that the climate,
lifestyle and clean air will mean a long and happy life.
But smack in the middle of it, on the Warm Springs Reservation, many
residents aren't even making it to 50.
A mortality study by a Warm Springs Health and Wellness Center doctor
presented to the tribal council says the average age of death between 1991
and 2000 was about 47. The average for the state in 2001 was 74.
The study was presented last year but was not made public. A copy was
obtained by The Bulletin newspaper of Bend.
It's not just a Warm Springs problem.
"Life expectancy for American Indians is shorter," said Doni Wilder, the
director of the Portland area Indian Health Service. "Historically, it's
always been the case. We've made great strides in improving it."
But health officials still can't explain it.
Congressional hearings have pressed the need to teach Indian youngsters
that a good diet, physical activity and lifestyle choices can mean a
Dr. Miles Rudd's mortality study included about 5,000 past or present
patients at the Warm Springs Health and Wellness Center. Most were
Rudd found that the No. 1 cause of death was accidents, primarily car
wrecks. Alcohol was a factor 72 percent of the time. It was followed by
diabetes and its complications, heart disease, suicide and chronic liver
disease, tied with cancer.
Nationally, heart disease is the major cause of death. Cancer is second.
However, the study shows the average age of death increasing since 1991
and infant mortality declining since the 1980s.
One tribal leader points to the growth rate of the tribe as a positive
sign for Warm Springs' future.
"I don't want to sound callous," said William Fuentes, the tribes' chief
operating officer, explaining that death is a tragedy for the entire
"The growth rate is such the tribal membership will continue to grow. When
someone does die at a young age, it just seems like they're other people
being born to replace that loss."
The tribe has quadrupled to 4,222 people since 1950.
Fuentes said some teenage deaths skewed the average death rate.
Because young deaths can bring down average ages, Oregon doesn't publish
the average age of death, said David Hopkins, a research analyst for the
state's Center for Health Statistics.
The state uses the median--half are younger, half are older.
However, the average and the median ages of death in Oregon were only four
years apart in 2001.
Better tribal health care can't save everybody, said Russ Alger, the chief
executive officer of the Warm Springs Health and Wellness Center.
"A lot of health care is personal choice. People have to make a decision
early on in life they're going to live a healthy lifestyle," he said.
Armed with mortality statistics, Rudd and other administrators encouraged
the tribe to pass a reservation seatbelt law, which went into effect in
And the diabetes program continues to stress early detection.
Some on the reservation do live long lives. Faye Waheneka, 72, speaks with
pride about her family, including more than 20 grandchildren. Her mother
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