Rising Youth Mortality Rates Hit Native American, Black Youth the Hardest

A new study revealed that rising child mortality rates in the United States are affecting Native American and Black youth the most.

According to a study from the Virginia Commonwealth University and Children’s Hospital of Richmond published on May 4, mortality rates increased by 22.3% for Native American youth and 35.7% for Balck youth from 2014-2020. Mortality rates for white youth increased by 4.7% during that time.

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Researchers reviewed more than 20 years of death certificate data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for individuals ages 1-19. According to the data, disparities in child mortality rates between racial and ethnic groups were gradually closing until 2013. Now, those disparities have widened, something the study attributes to an increase in injury-related fatalities, such as homicide, drug overdoses and car accidents. Between 2013 and 2020, the risk of death from gun violence rose by 124% for Native youth.

“Our earlier research on pediatric mortality revealed a great tragedy in that injury-related deaths are reversing the progress we’ve made in pediatric care. This latest study uncovers another layer of tragedy in that injury-related deaths are also reversing our progress in closing racial disparities in mortality,” added Steven Woolf, M.D., director emeritus of the VCU Center on Society and Health and a professor in the VCU School of Medicine’s Department of Family Medicine told VCU News.

Researchers stated that the most effective means of reversing the disturbing trends in youth mortality is through public health policy, including increasing access to behavioral health services to address the current mental health crisis affecting adolescents.

 While youth suicide rates in the United States have increased across the board by a staggering 62% from 2007-2021, Native youth bear the highest rates of suicide of all groups. Last month, theSpirit Lake Tribe in North Dakota and the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin filed a lawsuit against major social media companies for over youth suicides. The complaint puts forth widespread social media addiction among Native American teenagers is contributing to suicide rates. 

“There are many clear policy recommendations on how to save the lives of our children,” Woolf told VCU News. “We just need to act on it.”

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The Native News Health Desk is made possible by a generous grant from the National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation as well as sponsorship support from the American Dental Association. This grant funding and sponsorship support have no effect on editorial consideration in Native News Online. 
About The Author
Author: Elyse WildEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Elyse Wild is senior editor for Native News Online and Tribal Business News.

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