Measuring the health status gap for American Indians/Alaska Natives: Getting closer to the truth

Emily Puukka, Paul Stehr-Green, Thomas M. Becker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Objectives. We compared the historical method of calculating cancer incidence rates with 2 new methods to determine which approach optimally estimates the burden of cancer among the Northwest American Indian/Alaska Native (AIAN) population. Methods. The first method replicates the traditional way of calculating race-specific rates, and the 2 new methods use probabilistic record linkages to ascertain cancer cases. We indirectly adjusted all rates to the standard 2000 US population, Results. Whereas the historical cancer incidence rates for all races are more than double those for the AIAN population, this apparent gap is considerably narrower when the all-race rates are compared with AlAN-specific rates calculated with probabilistic linkage methods. Similarly, there is no meaningful difference in incidence rates for selected site- and gender-specific cancers between the AIAN population and all races combined, and, in fact, some of these rates may be higher among the AIAN population. Conclusions. Our results suggest that the burden of cancer among the AIAN population is considerably higher than was previously understood. We recommend that a standardized approach based on probabilistic linkage methods be adopted and that adequate financial and technical support be made available for conducting routine linkage studies throughout Indian communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)838-843
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican journal of public health
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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