New Orleans official challenges death rate data

The city of New Orleans' top medical official is angrily contesting new state data which conflicts with his findings that death rates have risen substantially since Hurricane Katrina. Officials with Louisiana's Department of Health and Hospitals yesterday released numbers which contradict an analysis by Dr. Kevin Stephens that mortality rates have spiked 47 percent since the disastrous storm. State officials concede that the city is still struggling, but said that Stephens' numbers are "exaggerated." They're also backed by a study from state epidemiologist arguing that death rates have leveled off since Katrina. But Stephens is charging that the state is victimizing already-traumatized city residents by downplaying the problem. He says that there are serious problems with the state's report, which he says uses incomplete data.

To learn more about the controversy:
- read this article from The Times-Picayune

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