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NHNA - Infant mortality

1.6.16

NHNA - Infant mortality: Nationally the infant death rate for American Indians is 1.5 times higher than whites, a long-standing health issue for tribal leaders across the nation.

There is no easy answer explaining why American Indian babies are dying at higher rates than other races. Across all groups, the risk factors for infant death are the same. But poverty, healthcare access and domestic violence are common culprits in Indian Country, consequently affecting the health and well-being of American Indian mothers, infants and children.

“Those are all the issues that these mothers have to contend with along with trying to keep their baby healthy,” said Carol Iron Rope Herrera, a cultural keeper of Lakota women’s traditions.

She believes the cause of the high infant mortality in American Indian communities has to do with lifestyle,

Linda Littlefield, manager of the Northern Plains Healthy Start program, said lifestyle behaviors centered around commercial tobacco use are among those that are a concern since American Indian women are more likely to smoke while pregnant.

Between 2008 and 2012, more than 30 percent of American Indian mothers in the Great Plains reported tobacco use during pregnancy, according to a report by the Northern Plains Tribal Epidemiology Center (NPTEC). South Dakota ranks as fifth highest in the U.S. for mothers who smoke while pregnant.


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