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Winner doctor joins study on causes of infant death

WINNER -- In her 27 years as a physician in Winner, Dr. Mary Carpenter has delivered more than a few babies. But some of those children's lives can be cut short because of neglect, malnutrition or other factors. As a newly appointed member of a t...

WINNER -- In her 27 years as a physician in Winner, Dr. Mary Carpenter has delivered more than a few babies.

But some of those children's lives can be cut short because of neglect, malnutrition or other factors. As a newly appointed member of a task force on infant mortality, Carpenter is hoping to make a difference in South Dakota.

"Anytime there's a severe problem for a baby, that's sad," Carpenter said. "If a baby doesn't survive because of preventable causes, it certainly makes it more concerning."

Carpenter is one of 27 members assigned by Gov. Dennis Daugaard to an infant mortality task force headed by his wife, Linda.

Task force members include Doneen Hollingsworth, state health secretary; Lon Kightlinger, state epidemiologist; and Dr. Antoinette Vanderpol, of Parkston.

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Carpenter said the task force is scheduled to meet next month. She's hopeful that the task force can reduce the state's infant mortality rate, which the governor's office reported was 7.3 deaths per 1,000 births over the past decade.

That rate was the 29th highest in the nation.

"I think we need to make sure that there's good access to prenatal care and we're going to have to look at what barriers do we have in the state to that access," Carpenter said. "I suspect the barricades we'll find are the sparse population and transportation."

Recently released statistics show progress in reducing infant mortality rates. The 2009 South Dakota Vital Statistics Report, released last week, shows a 20 percent decrease in infant mortality in South Dakota, with the number dropping from 100 per 1,000 births in 2008 to 80 per 1,000 in 2009.

Carpenter said it is important to keep progress moving.

"The problem with those numbers in South Dakota is it doesn't take many numbers to cause big changes in those statistics," Carpenter said.

Other child-related death numbers are not as encouraging.

The number of deaths in South Dakota of children ages 12 through 14 increased almost 84 percent from six in 2008 to 11 in 2009. Deaths of people ages 15 to 19 increased 23 percent from 47 in 2008 to 58 in 2009.

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Other statistics show the number of babies birthed to parents younger than 18 dropped in the state. Births to mothers between the ages of 12 and 14 dropped from 13 in 2008 to 10 in 2003. Births to mothers between 15 and 17 years of age dropped from 345 in 2008 to 303 in 2009.

Related Topics: HEALTH
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