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Pine Ridge

Why Pine Ridge

Gundersen Global Partners-Pine Ridge works in collaboration with a host of organizations on the Pine Ridge Reservation of South Dakota to improve the overall health and well being of the Oglala Lakota people and their communities.

Gundersen Health System and Native American leaders in South Dakota selected the Pine Ridge Reservation for the Global Partners partnership because of the vital need for medical and specialty services, educational support and community development initiatives. Current data demonstrates the need for continued assistance:

  • The life expectancy for men is just 48 years; for women it is 52 years.
  • The diabetes rate is eight times greater than the national average.
  • Indian Health Service (IHS), the sole healthcare provider on Pine Ridge, provides less than $2,900 annually in healthcare per Native American. Healthcare expenditures for the average American is more than $7,700 a year.
  • Pine Ridge native Dr. Don Warne, MD, MPH, gave a presentation to Gundersen medical staff describing the complex factors contributing to the health inequalities of American Indians.


Behavioral Health Partnerships

Partner with Pine Ridge Reservation communities and organizations to promote mutual learning and culturally-appropriate training to address behavioral health issues.

Why this matters: Suicide is the one of the leading causes of death among American Indian/Alaskan Native population in the United States.

Project Activities:

  • Partnering with Lakota mental health professionals to offer a "Healing Camp" that provides traditional and non-traditional activities for youth who have experienced trauma.
  • Developing trusting relationships with Lakota partners to support mental health in both clinical and community settings.
  • Partnering with Viterbo University's Mental Health Counseling program to offer mutual learning with Lakota organizations.

First Aid Fair

Share information and encourage conversation with Pine Ridge teens about basic first aid. Have students demonstrate knowledge of first aid training so they are prepared to respond in an emergency.

Why this matters: Emergency help is often 45+ minutes away on Pine Ridge Reservation. Knowledge in basic first aid skills can delay the worsening of a medical condition and even save a life while waiting for medical help to arrive.

Project Activities:

  • Partnering with the School District of La Crosse Health Science Academy (HSA) to provide training stations on basic first aid.
  • Providing first aid kits to students and staff.
  • Simulating a trauma scene to provide hands-on experience.

Health Fair

Share information and encourage conversation with Pine Ridge teens about healthy lifestyles.

Why this matters: The rise of obesity and diabetes is a public health crisis that disproportionally affects Native American youth.

Project Activities:

  • Partnering with the School District of La Crosse Health Science Academy (HSA) to present information to middle and high school aged youth about healthy lifestyle choices that include topics in substance abuse, obesity, mental health, hygiene and nutrition.
  • Connecting with Native youth by presenting health fair booths and in-class discussions.

Health for the Generations Camp

Support future career goals and encourage healthy lifestyles for Lakota youth by offering interactive healthcare education and hands-on experiences in La Crosse, WI.

Why this matters: 22% of American Indian/Alaskan Natives have not finished high school and only 13% have completed a bachelor's degree or higher.

Project Activities:

  • Partnering with Wisconsin Academy for Rural Medicine (WARM), Scenic Rivers Area Health Education, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Community Health Education and the School District of La Crosse to lead a week-long camp.
  • Providing hands-on experience in healthcare education, trauma, public health and health careers.

Physical Exams

Performing annual physical exams for students at Pine Ridge Reservation schools and Head Starts, as well as for Oglala Sioux Tribe police officers.

Why this matters: Without a physical exam, children cannot enroll in Head Start nor participate in school sports due to federal guidelines. Moreover, police officers are required to complete an annual exam to stay active in the field.

Project Activities

  • Providing routine physical exams and referrals as needed for Head Start and middle and high school student athletes.
  • Conducting vision screening in schools.
  • Providing physical exams for police officers and staff.

Specialty Partnerships with Indian Health Services

Providing high-quality specialty care for those living in the rural northeast area of Pine Ridge and providing training opportunities for Indian Health Service staff.

Why this matters: The Indian Health Services (IHS) provides less than $2,900 annually in healthcare per Native American (compared to $7,700/year for the average American). This significantly impacts the availability of specialty services.

Project Activities:

  • Offering a regular rotation of Women's Health, Internal Medicine, Family Medicine and other specialty services at Wanblee clinic.
  • Providing mammograms and clinical breast exams.
  • Providing continuing medical education talks and consultative support for staff at IHS hospitals.

Youth Leadership Camp & CPR Training

Provide training and skill building techniques to Pine Ridge Reservation youth focusing on the mind, voice, heart, body, vision and actions of a leader.

Why this matters: Leadership skills development supports Native American youth in being agents of change in their own communities. The School District of La Crosse Health Science Academy leads a week-long youth leadership camp for Lakota youth.

Project Activities:

  • Creating leadership opportunities for Lakota youth to participate in the creation of community projects.
  • Facilitating peer-to-peer relationships and cultural understanding between La Crosse and Lakota youth.
  • Providing CPR/AED training to Lakota youth and community members.


The work of Global Partners-Pine Ridge is supported by many local organizations, as well as partners in Pine Ridge.

Local Partnerships

  • The School District of La Crosse, Health Science Academy (HSA): initiated a school-to-school relationship with several schools on Pine Ridge Reservation, and send teams of HSA students twice each year to teach a First Aid Fair and Health Fair, and provide other interactive education with middle and high school students
  • The Wisconsin Academy for Rural Medicine (WARM) program: co-organizer (with UW-L) of the Native Students Health for the Generations
  • University of Wisconsin-La Crosse: co-organizer (with the WARM program) of the Native Students Health for the Generations Camp

Pine Ridge Partnerships

  • Indian Health Service (IHS)
  • Oglala Sioux Tribe (OST) Health Administration office
  • Pine Ridge Reservation Schools
  • Pine Ridge Reservation Head Starts

Interested in learning more about the Pine Ridge partnerships or volunteering? Check out trip dates and get more information

Or contact Global Partners office at (608) 775-9883 or

Love + Medicine

Every day, Gundersen Health System staff deliver great medicine plus a little something extra—we call it Love + Medicine.

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