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USD MPH and SD KIDS COUNT Research Reveals Troubling Trends

Old Main on the University of South Dakota campus A research project between South Dakota KIDS COUNT and USD's Master of Public Health program revealed that South Dakota families with children rely on safety-net health and social service programs.

VERMILLION, S.D. – A collaborative research project between South Dakota KIDS COUNT and USD’s Master of Public Health (MPH) program reveals that rising numbers of South Dakota families with children rely on safety-net health and social service programs. The research highlights changes in child poverty and enrollment in health and social service programs since the Great Recession, and it includes data from Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the National School Lunch Program.

The report indicates that South Dakota children enrolled in SNAP increased by 47 percent between 2007 and 2017. In 2007, 29,695 children from newborn to age 17 were enrolled in the SNAP program. That number jumped to 43,739 by 2017. SNAP is the largest federal nutrition assistance program in the nation.

The research effort also revealed that between 2007 and 2017 the number of children enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP increased by 20 percent, and the percent of children eligible for free or reduced priced meals in the state’s school lunch programs increased by 10.5 percent. Enrollment in WIC remained stable over the same time period with a slight decrease of 1 percent.

Chelsea Wesner, an instructor with the USD MPH program, led USD’s participation in the research in partnership with South Dakota KIDS COUNT director Carole Cochran and MPH student Taylor Clemmons. Findings can inform the administration and funding of health and social service programs, as well as the work of local nonprofits and schools.

"We know that access to healthy food and health care are really important social determinants of health, especially among families with children,” Wesner said. “Hunger and food insecurity are adverse childhood experiences and something we should be able to prevent."


USD’s School of Health Sciences is a national leader in interprofessional health sciences education. South Dakota’s comprehensive School of Health Sciences develops scholars, practitioners and leaders in health and human services, including addiction counselors, dental hygienists, health science practitioners, medical laboratory scientists, nurses, occupational therapists, physical therapists, physician assistants, public health practitioners and social workers.


USD's Beacom School of Business was established in 1927 and has been accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) since 1949. The leading business school in the region, Beacom’s programs are consistently ranked among the top business schools in the nation by Princeton Review, U.S. News & World Report and others for its high-quality learning experience, student success, affordability, and high-caliber of faculty and students. Whether a student chooses face-to-face or online courses, Beacom’s programs emphasize real-world experience through professional organizations, quality internships and capstone projects.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 84 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, Knudson School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Hanna DeLange
USD News