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Public Health Rep. 1996 May-Jun;111(3):264-71.

The prevalence of selected risk factors for chronic disease among American Indians in Washington State.

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Division of Research, Evaluation, and Epidemiology, Indian Health Service, Seattle, WA, USA.


Despite great improvements in recent decades, the health status of American Indians continues to lag behind that of other Americans. Continued health improvement will depend largely on changes in individual behavior. Until recently, however, few data existed on health risk behaviors among American Indians. We conducted personal interviews among the adult population of an Indian Health Service Unit in Washington State to estimate the prevalence of some health risk behaviors. This analysis focuses on three of the many topics covered in the survey: tobacco use, alcohol consumption, and weight. Cigarette smoking was more prevalent among both men and women than it was in the general population in the same area with 43% of men and 54% of women among the American Indians interviewed reported that they currently smoked. However, they tended to smoke much less heavily than smokers in the general population. Smokeless tobacco use was concentrated among young men, with the overall prevalence similar to that found in the general population. Acute heavy drinking was found to be common with 40% of men and 33% of women reporting this behavior for the previous month. The prevalence of substantial overweight was 45% among men and 43% among women, considerably higher than in the general population. Tribal leaders and the Indian Health Service are using the findings to design disease prevention and health promotion activities. In addition to providing valuable information about the surveyed populations, the survey served as a pilot for similar studies of other American Indian groups.

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