OBJECTIVE: To describe regional trends in premature mortality in Manitoba. DESIGN: Comparison of all-cause and cause-specific mortality of persons less than age 75 in 11 Regional Health Authority populations over two time periods: 1985-89 and 1990-94. RESULTS: The provincial premature mortality rate declined over the two time periods (4.00/1,000 to 3.72/1,000). Declines were also observed in 9 of 11 regional populations. Premature mortality increased, however, in the 2 regional populations with the highest mortality rates in the first observation period. CONCLUSION: Declining premature mortality in low mortality populations and rising premature mortality in high mortality populations has resulted in a widening of regional mortality rates in Manitoba. Recent policy initiatives in many provinces, including the devolution of authority for the management and delivery of health services and the implementation of population need-based funding formulas to share health care resources among regional health authorities, if implemented, have the potential to partially mitigate the processes producing these widening regional health inequalities.