Alcohol and poverty take a deadly toll in Navajo County Latest News

HOLBROOK – Let’s be honest.

This is an obvious conclusion that came from a presentation on what killed or hospitalized residents of Navajo County – aside from concerns about the pandemic.

Every year, 72 out of 100,000 Navajo County’s residents die of alcohol-related deaths. This corresponds to a national average of 18 per 100,000 and a national average of 15 per 100,000.

And that’s not all. Navajo County’s death rate from chronic liver disease is over 46 per 100,000, compared to 17 nationwide and 11 nationwide.

Interestingly, when it comes to drug-related deaths, Navajo County hits the national average of 28 per 100,000, which is still 27% above the national average.

All of these alarming numbers come from a presentation by Allison Hephner, director of project development at CPMSAZ, to the board of directors. The county is working with Grand Canyon University, Summit Healthcare, and other partners to find a comprehensive way to meet the community’s health needs.

Hephner noted that our own behavior, socioeconomic factors, and the environment have a lot more to do with whether we are healthy and live long than health care.

For example, 40% of our health comes from things like education, job status, family support, income, and community security.

Another 30% come from our own behavior – including smoking, alcohol use, drug use, diet and exercise, and sexual activity.

Another 10% comes from our physical environment.

That leaves only 20% that depends on access to health care and the quality of this health care.

Unfortunately, Navajo County’s residents have a few major risk factors, which are reflected in the county’s relatively high overall mortality rate.

For starters, 26% of Navajo County’s residents live in poverty – compared to 14% for the state as a whole and 12% for the country.

Overall, the county has relatively high mortality rates for most causes of death – particularly accidents (104 per 100,000 versus 63 across the state), diabetes (60 versus 17), suicide (27 versus 19), influenza / pneumonia (21 versus 13), and homicide (12 vs 6).

Fortunately, we are only slightly above the national average for the two main causes of death – heart disease and cancer.

The presentation represents a comprehensive effort to address some of the top preventable causes of death such as alcohol abuse, diabetes, accidents, smoking, and suicide.

With almost every effort, Navajo County’s residents face health care challenges – with a life expectancy of 75.7 years versus the US average of 77.9 years.

Some of these dire statistics reflect the ongoing health crisis on the Navajo and Apache Reservations, with Native Americans making up about half of the county’s population. However, the southern parts of the county also face major challenges related to poverty, alcohol use, smoking and health care.

The pandemic has dominated health issues over the past year – but actually helped underscore the importance of things like poverty, education and access to health care. The Apache and Navajo Reserves are among the hardest-hit communities in the country – with infection and mortality rates two to three times higher than the national average.

On the flip side, the pandemic also showed the power of community building – with the Navajo reservation now among the best vaccinated communities in the country.

Peter Aleshire covers county government and other issues for the Independent. He is the former editor of the Payson Roundup. Reach out to him at [email protected]

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