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Am J Prev Med. 1994 Sep-Oct;10(5):290-4.

Correctness of racial coding of American Indians and Alaska Natives on the Washington State death certificate.

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Lovelace Institutes, Albuquerque, NM 87108.


Underestimation of death rates for specific races can obscure health problems and impair the ability of public programs to prevent premature death and disability. For accurate race-specific death rates, the racial classification of both the population at risk and the decreased population must be accurately ascertained. However, studies suggest that the American Indian (AI) and Alaska Native (AN) races may be not be accurately recorded on the death certificate. We performed a computerized linkage between the Indian Health Service (IHS) patient registry and the 1985-1990 computerized Washington State death certificate data. The deceased was correctly identified as AI or AN on the death certificate for 1,088 (87.2%) of 1,248 matched deaths. The majority (93%) of deceased persons identified on the death certificate as not AI or AN were listed as white. The percentage of American Indian ancestry was strongly associated with correct racial classification on the death certificate (P < .001). Birth in Washington State, membership in a large Washington State tribe, and death from an alcohol condition independently added to the likelihood of correct AI or AN racial classification. Persons who died from cancer were significantly less likely to be correctly coded as AI or AN on the death certificate.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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