Grant awarded to help Arapaho combat infant mortality rate

Riverton, Wyoming (AP) 10-07

The Northern Arapaho Tribe will receive a $2 million grant to combat the high infant mortality rate on the Wind River Reservation.

The five-year grant to the tribe’s Women Infants and Children program comes from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The money will “provide resources to support and assist pregnant women, new mothers and infants,” according to a news release from the Arapaho WIC office.

The announcement of the award comes on the heels of a report from the Billings Mont.-based Rock Mountain Tribal Epidemiology Center that American Indians have the highest mortality rate in the nation at 11.1 infant deaths per 1,000 live births.

The Wind River Reservation is near the top of the list with 17.2, which is 55 percent higher than the overall American Indian rate and 138 percent higher than the U.S. rate.

Dr. Jennifer Giroux, director of the epidemiology center, said the high infant mortality rate on the reservation isn’t because of a lack of prenatal health services.

Giroux cited a survey conducted by the Wyoming Department of Health that found four significant disparities between local Indian and non-Indian mothers, and all had to do with behavior and eating habits.

The disparities have to do with folic acid intake during pregnancy, smoking during pregnancy, breast-feeding and “co-sleeping” with infants.

The solution, Giroux said, is for mothers to eat green vegetables or take a multivitamin during pregnancy, refrain from smoking during pregnancy, breast-feed children for the first two years of their lives and don’t share a bed with newborns when sleeping.

The tribe’s proposed use of the federal funding reflects such findings, with education set to be a component of the grant.

“This grant will assist us to expand the programs and resources that are available to assist pregnant women and their infants, and will support development of new culturally appropriate strategies for outreach and education,” Arapaho WIC director Cindy Washakie said.

She added that “Arapaho traditions and culture place great importance on our community providing care and support to mothers and infants.”

According to the WIC news release, the money will be used assist and educate women throughout their pregnancies; allow caseworkers to meet monthly with new mothers to discuss infant care practices; provide support for traditional healers and elders to hold “talking circles” for pregnant women and new mothers, during which they will educate the women on healthy, traditional child-rearing practices; provide training for medical staffers operating on the reservation; and provide education on pregnancy and motherhood to teenage girls at reservation high schools.