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Back To Vidyya Gun Deaths Among Children And Teens Drop Sharply

10 Deaths Per Day Still Too Many

Firearm deaths for children and teens dropped significantly between 1997 and 1998, according to a new mortality statistics report released today by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The report shows 3,792 children and adolescents under age 20 died in 1998 from firearms, down 10 percent from 4,223 in 1997, and down 35 percent from the high of 5,833 in 1994. This is a decrease from 16 deaths per day in 1994 to 10 deaths per day in 1998. The new statistics were published in a report, "Deaths: Final Data for 1998," prepared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics (CDC, NCHS).

"Each day, 10 children and teens are killed by firearms, and that is 10 too many," said HHS Secretary Donna E. Shalala. "However, it is significant decrease from four years earlier. This indicates that violence prevention efforts are showing results. But we all know how far we still have to go to protect our young people from gun deaths and injuries."

Overall, 30,708 people died of firearms in 1998, a 5 percent drop from 1997 and a 22 percent drop from the high of 39,595 in 1993. The age-adjusted death rate from firearms was 11.3 deaths per 100,000 population in 1998, a 7.4 percent drop from 12.2 in 1997 and down sharply from the high of 15.6 in 1993.

"Firearm deaths are preventable and we must continue to work tirelessly to avoid these deaths," said CDC Director Jeffrey P. Koplan, M.D., M.P.H.

The report is based on death certificates completed by physicians, medical examiners, and coroners, and reported to the states. Some of the other findings in the report include:

  • Life expectancy at birth increased to a record high of 76.7 years in 1998, up from 76.5 in 1997. A 15-year-old in 1998 could expect to live to be 77.5 years, a full year longer than a 15-year-old in 1993. The difference in life expectancy between the white and African-American populations was unchanged from 1997 with whites living six years longer than African-Americans.

  • The infant mortality rate remained unchanged in 1998, at 7.2 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. Rates for African-American infants continued to be more than twice those of white infants.

  • Death rates decreased for 8 of the 15 leading causes of death. Among the 15 leading causes of death, the largest decline in age-adjusted death rates was for atherosclerosis, which dropped 9.5 percent in 1998. Homicide dropped nearly 9 percent, while Alzheimer's disease mortality dropped nearly 4 percent. Mortality from stroke, heart disease, and chronic liver disease dropped by approximately 3 percent each, while suicide mortality dropped nearly 2 percent and cancer mortality dropped 1.6 percent. In additions, mortality from HIV infection declined nearly 21 percent between 1997 and 1998.

  • Mortality levels varied by race. Age-adjusted death rates for the African-American population exceeded those of the white population by 53 percent, a narrowing from about 55 percent in 1997. Among leading causes of death, the largest race differential was for homicide, which was nearly 6 times higher for African-Americans than whites. The next highest race differential was for hypertension, with a rate nearly 4 times higher for African-Americans than for whites. Conversely, African-Americans had lower rates for 3 leading causes of death -- lung disease, suicide and Alzheimer's.

  • Death rates for Hispanics decreased from 1997 to 1998, with rates for Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans showing the greatest decrease. The decrease was not significant for Cuban Americans. Seven of 10 leading causes of death among Hispanics were also leading killers for the non-Hispanic population. Homicide, chronic liver disease, and perinatal conditions were leading causes of death for Hispanics, but not for the total non-Hispanic population.

  • Racial and ethnic health disparities are the focus of an initiative launched by President Clinton and HHS in February 1998. The department's goal is to eliminate disparities experienced by racial and ethnic minority populations in six key areas of health by 2010: infant mortality, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, HIV/AIDS and childhood and adult immunizations. HHS is providing leadership in this effort through research, expanded and improved service delivery programs and expanded prevention strategies. For information regarding the statistics quoted in this article, try Deaths: Final Data for 1998. 106 pp. (PHS) 2000-1120.

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Editor: Susan K. Boyer, RN
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