Report: Grim Statistics on King County’s Pacific Islanders

Isaac Arnsdorf, Seattle Times, August 10, 2008

Local Pacific Islanders are more likely than other King County [the county that includes Seattle] ethnic groups to smoke, to have babies who are premature and unhealthy, and to die young, according a study that isolates the demographic for the first time. They’re also more likely to be obese and poor.

The King County Public Health report, announced Saturday at a cultural festival in White Center, is the first to study the county’s 15,000 Pacific Islanders as a distinct group. Previously, they were categorized with all Asians, which researchers said tended to bury the alarming figures.

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Compared with other King County residents, adult Pacific Islanders are 1.5 times more likely to smoke and twice as likely to be obese, the report says. Pacific Islander children are twice as likely to live in poverty, and also are more likely to smoke and be overweight.

Pacific Islander infants more frequently have unusually low or high birth weights, are born prematurely or born to teen mothers, and receive late prenatal care or none at all.

Also, the annual mortality rate for local Pacific Islanders is 60 percent higher than the county population as a whole, the study says.

Compounding these risks, 17 percent of Pacific Islanders lack health insurance, compared with 13 percent of all King County adults.

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The availability of statistics specific to Pacific Islanders was made possible by revised federal guidelines for how to collect racial and ethnic data.

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