Story last updated at 1/30/2013 - 2:12 pm
A new study released by the Division of Public Health shows the rates of violence-related deaths involving homicide and suicide in the state of Alaska have decreased 11 percent and 2 percent, respectively, over the 2007 to 2011 reporting period. This is compared to the 2004 to 2008 reporting period. Public health experts say this drop is the result of an increase in violence prevention and other mental health programs supported by the Division of Public Health.
While homicide and suicide rates are down, the new report indicates a 5 percent rise in the overall average of violent deaths in the state. This is primarily due to increased incidents of undetermined intent, including sudden unexplained infant death or other circumstances where a cause of death could not be explained.
Alaska is one of 18 states participating in the National Violent Death Reporting System. The Alaska Violent Death Reporting System, a state-based surveillance system, creates an anonymous, centralized database of information from various sources about each violent death incident and suicide with death certificates, police reports and medical examiner reports.
"These studies are used to paint a clearer picture of the circumstances that led to each incident, with the goal of better evaluating community needs," said Deborah Hull-Jilly, program manager at the Division of Public Health's Section of Epidemiology, Injury Surveillance Program. "Suicide prevention efforts especially have been a big focus in recent years, and we consider the latest rates to be a positive reflection of how these programs aid future prevention efforts as well as program and policy creation."
The findings will be analyzed during a panel discussion at the closing plenary session of the 30th Annual Alaska Health Summit tomorrow in Anchorage. A panel discussion entitled "Promising Practices: Building on Data for Prevention of Violent Death" will explore the current data-driven approaches that improve a greater understanding of self-harm, violence inflicted by other individuals and accidental firearm injuries. The session is hosted by the National Violence Prevention Network in conjunction with the Alaska Division of Public Health, the Alaska Public Health Association and the American College of Preventive Medicine.
Scott Saxon, AKVDRS program coordinator, will moderate the panel that includes panelists Dr. Linda Degutis, director at the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control; Diane Casto, manager at the Alaska Suicide Prevention Council and Alaska Strategic Prevention Framework State Incentive Program; and Barbara Franks, program associate at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium Suicide Prevention Program. Susanne Fleek, state director for Sen. Mark Begich, and Catherine Petty, deputy state director for Rep. Don Young, will be providing remarks on behalf of their respective offices prior to the panel discussion.
The closing plenary session will be held Wednesday at the Hotel Captain Cook from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. The public is invited to contact the Alaska Public Health Association at (907) 830-8454 for more information on attending the plenary session.
The most recent Alaska Violent Death Reporting System reports are available at http://www.epi.hss.state.ak.us/bulletins/catlist.jsp?cattype=Violence.