Sharp Co. infant mortality rate highest among NE AR counties

CHEROKEE VILLAGE, AR (KAIT) - Sharp County has the highest infant mortality rate in northeast Arkansas, 29 in 1,000 births, according to the Arkansas Department of Health.

This is the second highest rate in the state.

Sharp County also has one of the highest rates in the state for no prenatal care.

Expectant mother Rebecca Huffmaster said this is why the infant mortality rate is so high.

"I actually have to go an hour away to see a doctor for prenatal care," Huffmaster said. "So any time I have to make an appointment, I have to take off work for that and then drive an hour away and drive an hour back to come back home. So there is no place local to see a doctor for prenatal care at all."

Huffmaster makes this trip from Cherokee Village to Batesville once a month. But now that she is in the final trimester of her pregnancy, these trips will become more frequent.

"It'll be every two weeks, then every week," Huffmaster said. "So I'll have to take off work for each of those appointments, and, pretty soon, that's just gonna be too much for me. It's gonna be I'm working constantly, then going to the doctor, traveling back and forth all the time. So it's gonna be very, very stressful."

Huffmaster said this regular commute not only takes up her time, but her gas money.

"Extra money we shouldn't have to spend," Huffmaster said.

Huffmaster is not the only expectant mother caught in this predicament.

"I have friends who go to Mountain Home, Batesville and Jonesboro," Huffmaster said. "We all have to go at least an hour away just to see a doctor."

Huffmaster already went through this once before with her now eighteen-month-old daughter.

"That long haul is not really worth it," Huffmaster said. "I mean, they're good doctors, but we could find good doctors close to home if there was a place for that here."

Huffmaster said the county desperately needs that place.

"We should open at least a small facility for moms, or moms to be, for prenatal care, obstetrician care, anything like that, somewhere here close to home," Huffmaster said.

Huffmaster is actually one of the lucky ones. She said many expectant mothers in Sharp County cannot take off work, pay for gas, or even pay for the health care itself.

To see the Arkansas Department of Health's full report, visit the department's website.

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