2 out of 3 ‘intentional injury’ hospitalizations among Alaska Natives are alcohol related, report says

My mailbox is filling up this week with notes from researchers and reporters interested in the new ISER study that found no statistical evidence that banning alcohol in a village reduces suicides among young Alaska Native men.

One reader notes that the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium’s newly updated Alaska Native Injury Atlas shows an expanded picture of the astounding role liquor plays in injury and death across the state.

The numbers are high for all Alaskans, not just Alaska Natives. Alcohol was a factor in 62 percent of hospitalizations for assault and half of suicide attempts for all races statewide between 2005 and 2009, according to the Division of Public Health. Look for a long-awaited update on those figures this summer, when the Division plans to release a fresh Alaska Injury Surveillance Report.

For now, here’s the latest from ANTHC, which looked at hospitalizations and deaths of Alaska Natives and American Indians in Alaska between 2002-2011.

More than 63 percent of intentional injuries – fights, murders, suicides and suicide attempts – were alcohol-related, the report says. Alcohol also played a role in about one-third of hospitalizations for unintentional injuries such as poisoning, drowning and car crashes.

Other injuries reported to be alcohol related among Alaska Natives, for the same time period, include:

– Almost one out of three (29.4 percent) fall-related injury hospitalizations. 

– Almost three out of five (57.5 percent) suicide attempt and self harm hospitalizations. 

– Almost three out of four (71.4 percent) assault injury hospitalizations. 

– Almost one out of two (45.4 percent) motor vehicle-related injury hospitalizations. 

– One out of three (33.6 percent) ATV-related injury.

– Two out of every five (40.2 percent) snowmachine-related hospitalizations. 

The ANTHC report also includes success stories of programs intended to reduce accidental and intentional injury to Alaska Natives, including an effort to place gun safes in 72 newly built homes in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta and Bristol Bay regions.

Since 2011, the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp. has sold gun safes to villagers in the region with no retail markup and has paid shipping expenses to make the safes more affordable outside the hub city of Bethel, according to the report.

Originally published May 9, 2014 by Kyle Hopkins in Anchorage Daily News.