It’s as complex issue with no sound solution. The infant mortality rate in South Dakota is among the highest in the nation with 7 deaths per every 1,000 live births. The infant mortality rate among Native Americans is twice as high as Caucasians.
“The reasons that they’re higher is because of environments, access to care and access to emergency resources,” said Jennifer Irvin, an epidemiologist with the Oglala Sioux Tribe.
The infant mortality rate in Pennington County is 7.5. That tops both the state rate of 7.0 and the national rate of 6.0. Those statistics are the reason Daugaard and her task force are working to reduce the number of infant deaths in the state by year 2015.
“It’s gonna take a whole village to get this job done,” said Daugaard. ” It’s gonna take parents, grandparents, it’s gonna take pediatricians, it’s gonna take doctors and communities all gathering together around this to get this taken care of.”
That teamwork is what Daugaard says is needed to bring South Dakota back to the low rate of infant mortality it had a decade ago. And she says education is the key. Daugaard says teaching expectant mothers that smoking, lack of prenatal care and a safe sleeping area for a baby can all lead to death.