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American Indians in South Dakota Have More Health Problems Than Others in State, Nationwide, Health Official Says

American Indians in South Dakota have higher rates of infant mortality, cancer, accidental death, and diabetes than any other race in the state or across the nation, according to a state health official, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader reports.

Lon Kightlinger of the South Dakota Health Department, at the request of the Zaniya Task Force, recently reviewed health disparities among American Indians and the rest of the state's population and found what he called "very somber and very troubling" statistics.

The state Legislature established the task force to ensure that all residents have access to health insurance, and Gov. Mike Rounds (R) encouraged the task force to look into health care for American Indians specifically. The task force is expected to release recommendations by the end of September.

According to Kightlinger, the infant mortality rate among American Indians in South Dakota is more than twice the rate of others in the state. Infant mortality in South Dakota was 6.9 deaths per 1,000 births, compared with a rate of 6.8 deaths per 1,000 nationally from 2000 to 2005, according to the state health department. In South Dakota, the rate among American Indians was 12.9 deaths per 1,000 live births, compared with 5.5 deaths per 1,000 births among whites.

According to a health department report from 2001 to 2003, the rate of new cancer diagnoses for American Indians was 519 cases per 100,000 people, compared with 467 diagnoses per 100,000 people for whites. According to the report, death rates from cancer for the same time period were 245 deaths per 100,000 people among American Indians, compared with 187 deaths per 100,000 people among whites.

Robert Moore, a council member for the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, said the rates could indicate that American Indians either lack access to or do not obtain cancer screenings and early detection services.

Kightlinger said, "We've pulled together and improved things for other groups. We need to pull together and get it done here".


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