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Public Health Rep. 1986 May-Jun;101(3):309-14.

Decline in infant mortality of Alaskan Yupik Eskimos from 1960 to 1980.


A 1960-62 study of southwestern Alaskan Eskimos documented an infant mortality rate--102.6 deaths per 1,000 live births--that was four times greater than that of U.S. whites. In 1980-81, 20 years after the original study, a similar cohort was identified in this population so that changes in infant mortality and other birth characteristics could be examined. Average birth weight and the amount of prenatal care received by the mothers increased from 1960 to 1980. Birth weight and prenatal visits were positively correlated. Results of the followup also revealed a 1980-81 infant mortality rate--17.1 deaths per 1,000 live births--that was less than a fifth of the 1960-62 rate and no longer significantly different from the national rate. Major changes associated with the decrease in mortality during the first 28 days of life (neonatal mortality) were a significant increase in the proportion of infants born in hospitals and an associated decrease in the number of deaths of infants weighing less than 2,500 grams at birth. The reduction in mortality during the rest of the first year of life was related to a decrease in deaths due to infectious diseases, particularly measles and pertussis. Changes in infant mortality reflect the increased availability of health care in this region, improved immunization programs, and the establishment of the Bethel Prematernal Home in Bethel, AK.

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