The program aims to drastically reduce the death of babies on the reservation, which is devastated by an infant mortality rate 300 percent higher than the national average. The program works to achieve this change by providing emotional care, nutrition, education and Lakota values to young at-risk moms and their newborns and children.
But many challenges have stood it their way. In December 2011, the program lost its first office due to high levels of asbestos. Then the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen's Health Board placed it in a mold-infested trailer with holes. When that situation 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.
Many wonderful things happen in the Healthy Start Office—like new clothes for school, nutrition counseling for mothers to have healthier babies, education about pre- and post-natal care and emotional support. The Lakota Healthy Start Facebook page asks, "Please help us provide Healthy Start with a warm, safe and permanent home. They are currently CRIPPLED living out of a rat and mice infested storage room. Wopila."
Help has already come from the Dahlin Group, an architectural firm with offices throughout California and China, which has agreed to work with Henry Red Cloud, a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe and founder of Lakota Solar Enterprises (LSE), to develop to the new building to house Lakota Healthy Start. LSE is a Native-owned renewable-energy company created in 2006 by Red Cloud with nonprofit partner Trees, Water & People. It is dedicated to reducing pollution and fostering a sustainable lifestyle using modern-day technology and traditional Lakota values.
Read more about the program in Indian Country Today Media Network: "Lakota Moms and Babies Need Help: Support Lower Infant Mortality Through Healthy Start".
To donate to the cause, visit IndieGogo.com/projects/268593.