Northwest Voices | Letters to the Editor
American Indian model for health-care reform extended
More policies are needed
Mark Trahant’s opinion editorial on American-Indian health [“Court’s ruling extends American Indian model for health-care reform,” Opinion, July 10] presents information about improvements in the health of Native Americans that, if true, would be almost unheralded in the world today.
He reports that a more than 20-year gap in average age of death between Indians and the white population before 1976 was reduced to less than five years today, after passage of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act. However Trahant makes one major error: average age of death is not the same as life expectancy.
Life expectancy is calculated using age-specific death rates applied to a standard population. Although the current gap between American Indians and Alaska Natives and all races combined is indeed reported to be 5.2 years today, in 1970, the life-expectancy gap between American Indians and the total U.S. population was 5.9 years, not 20.
We need to see greater convergence between American Indian/Alaska Native health and the rest of us.; it will take other policies to hasten that along.
— Stephen Bezruchka MD, MPH, Seattle