A comprehensive study of health and socioeconomic inequalities among American Indians and Alaska Natives (AIANs) in the United States published in GHEP’s International Journal of Translational Medical Research and Public Health (IJTMRPH) reports shocking data that AIAN populations and tribal communities continue to experience disproportionately high rates of violence, injuries, youth suicide, obesity, smoking, poverty, unemployment, disability, diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, hypertension, depression and psychological distress, liver cirrhosis and alcohol-related mortality, poor overall health, infant and premature mortality, and lower life expectancy, compared to the majority White population as well as the general population of the United States.

The study authored by researchers from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency within the US Department of Health and Human Services, emphasized the need for addressing inequities in social determinants as a key policy strategy for tackling health inequalities among AIANs and other racial/ethnic groups in the United States.

Specifically, the seminal study which rigorously examined different aspects of health and socioeconomic status reported the following key findings:

  • In 2019, life expectancy at birth was 76.9 years for AIANs, significantly lower than that for Asian/Pacific Islanders (88.2), Hispanics (83.7), non-Hispanic Whites (79.1), and slightly higher than the life expectancy of African Americans (76.2);
  • The infant mortality rate for AIANs was 8.7 per 1,000 live births, 79% higher than the rate for non-Hispanic Whites and 114% higher than the rate for Asian/Pacific Islanders;
  • High rates of mortality among AIANs, particularly in rural areas, were found for working ages, diabetes, liver cirrhosis, alcohol-related causes, youth suicide, and unintentional injuries;
  • About 10% of AIAN adults experienced serious psychological distress, at two-to-five times higher rate than other racial and ethnic groups in the US; and
  • AIANs had the highest overall disability, mental and ambulatory disability, health uninsurance, unemployment, and poverty rates in the US, with poverty rates for some AIAN tribes approaching or exceeding 40%.

For additional information, please contact the study’s lead author, Dr. Gopal K. Singh, PhD, of the Health Resources and Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (email: gsingh@hrsa.gov).