HOLBROOK — Let’s face it.

We drink too much.

That’s one obvious conclusion that emerged from a presentation on what’s killing or hospitalizing Navajo County residents – all worries about the pandemic aside.

Each year 72 out of 100,000 Navajo County resident fall to alcohol-induced deaths. That compares to a statewide 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 tops 46 per 100,000, compared to 17 statewide and 11 nationally.

Interestingly — when it comes to drug-induced deaths — Navajo County matches the state average of 28 per 100,000, which is still 27% higher than the national average.

All these alarming figures came from a presentation to the board of supervisors by Allison Hephner, director of project development for CPMSAZ. The county’s working with Grand Canyon University, Summit Healthcare and other partners to develop a comprehensive way to address community health needs.

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

For instance, 40% of our health stems from things like education, job status, family support, income and community safety.

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

Another 10% stems from our physical environment.

That leaves just 20% that depends access to healthcare and the quality of that healthcare.

Unfortunately, Navajo County residents have a couple of major risk factors — which are reflected in the county’s relatively high overall death rate.

For starters, 26% of Navajo County residents live in poverty – compared to 14% statewide and 12% nationally.

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

Fortunately, we’re only a little above the state average for the two leading causes of death — heart disease and cancer.

The presentation introduces a comprehensive effort to address some of those leading, preventable causes of death — like alcohol abuse, diabetes, accidents, smoking and suicide.

On almost every measure, Navajo County residents face health care challenges – with a life expectancy of 75.7 years versus a US average of 77.9 years.

Some of those grim statistics reflect the ongoing healthcare crisis on the Navajo and Apache Reservations, with Native Americans making up about half of the county population. However, the southern portions of the county also face significant challenges linked to poverty, alcohol use, smoking and healthcare.

The pandemic has dominated health care concerns for the past year — but has actually served to underscore the importance of things like poverty, education and access to healthcare. The Apache and Navajo Reservations are among the hardest hit communities in the nation — with infection and death rates two or three times greater than the national average.

On the other hand, the pandemic also demonstrated the power of community education — with the Navajo Reservation now among the most fully vaccinated communities in the country.

Peter Aleshire covers county government and other topics for the Independent. He is the former editor of the Payson Roundup. Reach him at paleshire@payson.com

(1) comment


What would our rates be for everything if the reservations weren't included?

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