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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Hawai'i-born beat U.S. life-expectancy average

By Treena Shapiro
Advertiser Government Writer

People born in Hawai'i live three years longer than the national average and have lower death rates from heart disease and cancer, according to the latest edition of the Hawaii Medical Service Association's Health Trends in Hawai'i report.

However, Hawai'i lags behind the nation in several other areas, with higher rates of infant mortality, chlamydia, tuberculosis, measles and mumps.

In addition, the state has higher than average rates of motor vehicle deaths involving alcohol and drug use among adults and minors.

The report showed a Hawai'i-born person's life expectancy is 80 years, compared with the national average of 77 years. "That is very good news," said Janice Okubo, state Health Department spokeswoman. "It's probably due to our good environment and good weather and opportunities for physical activity."

She noted, however, that there are areas where the state can improve by promoting healthier behaviors.

The report draws on 2003 statistics, which include the leading causes of death in Hawai'i by age group, including:

  • Heart disease for those 35 and older

  • Cancer for those 25 and older

  • Motor vehicle collisions for those 4 through 34

  • Suicide for those 18 to 34

    These causes of death have remained fairly consistent since 1980, the report says.

    Infant mortality rates have fallen sharply nationally and in Hawai'i since 1980, with rates for both at about seven deaths per 1,000 live births.

    The state has been trying to lower its infant mortality rate by focusing on safe sleeping practices to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, she said.

    When it comes to chlamydia, a sexually transmitted disease that is a major cause of infertility, Hawai'i's rate is higher than the national average (440 cases per 100,000 people in Hawai'i vs. 300 nationally).

    In addition, women have three times the number of diagnosed cases as men, in part because screening programs are focused on women, particularly those becoming sexually active.

    "This is really a concern because these are young women just beginning their years of fertility," said Peter Whiticar, chief of the state STD/AIDS prevention branch. "They may not discover (they have chlamydia) until they are trying to become pregnant years later."

    Reach Treena Shapiro at tshapiro@honoluluadvertiser.com.