What is Killing Our Children Child and Infant Mortality among American Indians and Alaska Natives

Authors: Teshia G. Arambula Solomon, PhD,
Publication Year: 2017
Last Updated: 2017-03-10 10:21:47
Journal: The University of Arizona, Native American Research and Traning Center
Keywords: Child, Infant, Mortality, American Indians and Alaska Natives

Short Abstract:

As an obstetric resident I once took care of a young Native American woman who had been transported by helicopter from a remote rural community because she had been assaulted by her intoxicated partner. She was early in her third trimester, and the damage to her face and extremi-ties was dramatic but not life threatening. However, the trauma to her abdomen resulted in a fracture of the femur of her unborn 28-week-old female fetus. Our team recognized that while we could successfully get her safely through her pregnancy, the real challenges she and her daughter faced would come upon her return home. For American Indian people, context matters and is a key determinant of health and mortality. We need to examine what’s really killing our children across a spectrum of health indicators, and public health needs to intervene at all levels.


The very vulnerable demographic group of American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) youth face unique and important challenges. We need to hear from native stakeholders and experts in American Indian health about the contextual factors (poverty, low educational attainment, and substance abuse) that represent a threat to native communities in this country. To begin to mitigate that threat, researchers, opinion leaders, human services providers, and the general popula-tion need to begin to understand what is killing native children [1].
In this paper we use the lens of infant and childhood mortality as a tool to recognize opportunities for action that could have an impact on this perhaps most critical indicator of the health of this population. We attempt to extract some lessons from the lived experiences of too many reservation and urban Indian communi-ties and turn these tragic stories into useful tools for broader policy and health system change.

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