Miranda and Baby Jasper: Miranda is a first-time mom and says she could not have done it without the help of Roberta and the Healthy Start Program. (Lakota Healthy Start Facebook)

Lakota Moms and Babies Need Help: Support Lower Infant Mortality Through Healthy Start Program

December 20, 2012

The Lakota Healthy Start Program on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota dramatically lowers the infant mortality rate (IMR) by providing emotional care, nutrition, education and Lakota values to young at-risk moms and babies. 

The reservation is ground zero for infant deaths. The IMR is 300 percent higher than the national average, the highest in the U.S.

But the resilient program has faced numerous challenges threatening its ability to continue helping the mothers and babies who so desperately need their support. Healthy Start lost its first office due to high levels of asbestos, and then the nonprofit was placed in a mold-infested trailer with holes in it. When that proved unacceptable, the program moved into the storage room behind a video store. Recently, the Indian Health Service deemed the room unfit due to the threat of the Hanta Virus. 

“We're crowd-sourcing to raise money for a new, sustainable, ‘off-the-grid’ building that will be located on five beautiful acres and last for a very long time,” said Kitty Farmer, the executive director of the Lakota Healthy Start Building Campaign. Farmer learned of the program while producing the documentary film “What’s in the Heart – Can’t be Taken,” featuring the stories of Indians fighting for health equality.

“The statistics on Indian health are heartbreaking—American people have no idea the unimaginable and preventable suffering our American Indian neighbors are enduring,” Farmer said. “It's as if we're talking about a third world country.” 

Farmer asks those who can help Lakota Healthy Start by making a donation through her campaign on Indiegogo.com. The Healthy Start program is fiscally sponsored by the National Indian Youth Leadership Project (NIYLP), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, so donations are tax deductible, and 5 percent goes toward NIYLP.  

The program’s goal is to raise $25, 650; so far it has raised less than $1,000 with 38 days left to go.

Visit Indiegogo to watch a video about the dire IMR on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and learn more about Lakota Healthy Start: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/268593.


Submitted by Anonymous on

There are federal grants available for this program and infrastructural development activities.

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