Death Rates in Alabama: Spatial and Statistical Analyses

Joshua S. Shaw, Miriam L. Fearn, Earth Sciences
Michael J. Weak, Madhuri S. Mulekar, Mathematics and Statistics

Death rate data (1988-1998) from the Alabama State Center for Health Statistics is the basis for this research, which focuses on both the spatial distribution of different causes of death and on the statistical relationships between cause of death and other variables such as age, sex, and ethnicity. For major causes of death, men and women have similar death rates. Circulatory system diseases (42%) and neoplasms (23%) were the two most common causes of death observed. Deaths due to diseases related to the respiratory system (9%) trail behind them. Choropleth maps at the zip code level reveal areas within the state characterized by high or low death rates associated with different causes of death. For example, HIV, prostate cancer, and diabetes exhibit higher death rates in the southern part of Alabama. Other causes of death such as cancer of the respiratory tract, blood poisoning, and heart attack have a random spatial distribution. Mapping at the zip code level as "deaths per 100,000 people" living within the zip code enables us to pinpoint problem places such as McIntosh in Washington County north of Mobile. It has high death rates from HIV, heart attack, heart failure, strokes, and colon and respiratory cancers. This research provides a valuable resource for doctors and environmentalists as well as for community leaders.