South Dakota loves babies, but we’re letting too many of them die, says Health Secretary Melissa Magstadt:
The infant mortality rate measure the number of babies who die within the first year of life.
In 2020, South Dakota had a rate of 7.4 percent. Comparatively, the national infant mortality rate is 5.7 percent.
Concerns surrounding this issue in South Dakota are not new. Throughout the last decade, an Infant Mortality Committee within the state’s Department of Health has investigated the causes of reported infant deaths. The committee discovered the highest risk factor of infant mortality is low education in the eastern part of the state and poverty in the west.
Magstadt cited an increase in congenital syphilis and safe sleep issues as causes for infant mortality rises. She said 80 percent of safe-sleep-related deaths happened when the child was sleeping in an adult bed, a crib not up to safety standards, a car seat, on a couch or chair [Zadya Abbott, “Concerns Raised over ‘Prenatal Care Deserts’ in South Dakota,” SDPB Radio, 2023.07.31].
Magstadt’s summary to the Government Operations and Audit Committee of Department of Health performance measures shows that since 2018 (the year we elected her boss to govern the state), infant mortality and maternal mortality have gone up while breastfeeding has gone down:
Magstadt said part of the problem is that the entire state has just 66 OBGYNs concentrated mainly in Rapid City and Sioux Falls. Recall what we heard in May about how the misogynist policies of the current Governor are making it harder to address South Dakota’s shortage of women’s health care providers:
South Dakota is facing a shortage of OB-GYNs and is a leading state for maternity care deserts, which is a county without a hospital or birth center offering obstetric care. [Avery] Olson wants to be part of the solution, but she hesitates. She worries the state’s abortion laws will serve to worsen the shortage, leaving future South Dakota OB-GYNs to bear heavier workloads while some rural women’s health care needs are neglected.
…“Where I’m training, there are maybe two out of the 28 residents who would consider working in a state that has restrictive laws in place for women’s health care,” said Olson, who is a resident physician at the University of Hawaii. “That’s because I’m from South Dakota and the other is from Texas. The rest of them wouldn’t even touch South Dakota”
…In a national survey of more than 2,000 medical students, residents, fellows and practicing physicians through social media, three-fourths of respondents said they would not apply to states with legal consequences for providing abortion care, and more than 80% would prefer to train or practice in states with preserved abortion access, according to a study published in February in the Journal of General Internal Medicine [Makenzie Huber, “South Dakota Has a Women’s Health Care Shortage. The Abortion Ban May Worsen It, Physicians Say,” South Dakota Searchlight, 2023.05.15].
Secretary Magstadt is in a tough spot on more than women’s and children’s health. According to the department’s own report, DOH is meeting only one of its eleven performance goals. In addition to the bad stats for women and children, DOH reports that childhood immunization rates are declining and unintentional overdoses are way up.
That health data makes clear that while Governor Noem claims she’s bringing Freedom™ to South Dakotans, she’s also bringing more death.