State’s first lady drives infant mortality groupPIERRE — When Linda Daugaard speaks, Gov. Dennis Daugaard listens. That’s especially true on infant mortality, an issue the governor made such a high priority in his administration’s first year that he appointed South Dakota’s first lady to head the task force.
By: Bob Mercer, Republic Capital Bureau
PIERRE — When Linda Daugaard speaks, Gov. Dennis Daugaard listens.
That’s especially true on infant mortality, an issue the governor made such a high priority in his administration’s first year that he appointed South Dakota’s first lady to head the task force.
“After every meeting I’d come home and say, ‘Honey, did you know …” she said. A half-hour later, they would still be talking about it.
Linda Daugaard sat down Friday morning to deliver another briefing to members of the Legislature. She spoke to the Senate committee on health and human services, outlining the findings and recommendations developed by the task force.
The statistics are the foundation for the concern. She said an average of 80 babies died annually in South Dakota from 2000 through 2010. More telling was that infant mortality had been declining in previous decades but started to climb starting in 2000.
During the past decade, South Dakota’s rate was higher than any of its neighboring states, and at 7.0 deaths per 1,000 live births was slightly higher than the national average.
She said the American Indian rate for infant mortality in South Dakota was the highest in the nation and was twice as high as the white rate in South Dakota.
“Pretty telling picture,” she said.
The task force met in June at Sioux Falls, in September at Rapid City, and in November at Pierre. The final recommendations were delivered to the governor Dec. 15.
The governor’s goals are to reduce the infant-mortality rate in South Dakota to 6.0 by 2015. Two of the related goals are to increase first-trimester prenatal care and to reduce the percent of women who smoke during pregnancy to 15 percent by 2015.
The study found that 18.5 percent of mothers smoked while pregnant during the past five years in South Dakota.
Among the steps that are being promoted to reduce infant mortality are more use of safe-sleep practices, providing more prenatal care for mothers, coordinating more community support for mothers before and after birth, helping women to stop smoking, and assisting with transportation to prenatal care visits for pregnant women.
“That seemed to be a big obstacle in the rural areas,” she said.
Daugaard ranked safe sleep as the top-most goal. She said the new thinking is cribs should be empty of bumper pads, blankets and stuffed animals, with the baby in just a season-appropriate jumper and having a pacifier.
North Dakota has a new project focusing on safe cribs, she said.
Smoke has an effect on the birth weight of children, and there is higher infant mortality associated with women who smoke, state Health Secretary Doneen Hollingsworth said.
Sen. Jean Hunhoff, R-Yankton, said she was impressed by the collaboration.
“I really, really appreciate what you’ve done. This is a big thing on our reservations,” said Sen. Jim Bradford, D-Pine Ridge.