Infant mortality rates in the United States as a whole have been dropping, but South Dakota has seen a rise in recent years. Since 2000, South Dakota has seen an average infant mortality rate of 7 (infant mortality rate defined as the number of deaths between birth and one year out of 1000 births), edging out the national average of 6.8, and considerably higher than surround states of North Dakota (5.9), Minnesota (5), Iowa (5.2), Nebraska (5.9) and Montana (6). In response, Governor Dennis Daugaard issued an executive order on May 12, 2011, forming a task force headed by First Lady Linda Daugaard to examine the problem and find ways to lower the rate. Their goal is to bring the state's rate down to 6 per 1000 by 2015.
Of the counties of the Black Hills, only Custer and Lawrence have infant mortality rates below the national average (at 6.3 and 6.5). Pennington's 7.5 and Butte's 7.7 place them slightly above the state average. Fall River and Meade are much higher at 8.9 and 9.6, and Shannon County has the fourth highest in the state with 14.3.
Early prenatal care is cited as a factor in infant mortality. The counties with the highest infant mortality rates are also the ones with the lowest rate of women receiving prenatal care; just 52% of women in Shannon County received prenatal care. The correlation is not as apparent further away from the extreme end: Pennington County has a lower infant mortality rate than Meade, but Meade had 77% of women receiving care compared to Pennington's 72%. The state's goal for 2015 is that 77.8% of women will receive prenatal care.
American Indians make up a disproportinate part of the state infant mortality rate. Taken as individual races, the white infant mortality rate is 5.8, with American Indians at more than twice that with 12.5. These are based off of 99,000 white births and 22,500 American Indian births between 2000 and 2010.
Executive Order 2011-11- Executive Order creating the Infant Mortality Task Force
Governor's Task Force on Infant Mortality- Website for the task force
South Dakota Governor's Task Force on Infant Mortality Final Report- Final report and recommendations of the task force.
Kids Count Data Center- Site with data on Infant Mortality, prenatal care, and similar issues
More information- News articles and other updates on infant mortality in South Dakota