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South Carolina's Infant Death Rate Falls

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

South Carolina's infant mortality rate dropped to 8.4 deaths for each 1,000 live births during 2006, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control said today.

The 2006 rate of 8.4 was the second lowest rate in ten years and represents a decrease from 2005's rate of 9.5 deaths per 1,000 live births, even with 5,000 more births in the state than in the previous year, according to the latest statistics from DHEC's Office of Public Health Statistics.

Of 62,191 babies born in 2006, 520 died before their first birthday. The leading cause of death during that time was congenital malformations. Premature births and low birth weight, followed by SIDS, otherwise known as sudden infant death syndrome, were the second and third leading causes of infant deaths.

"We're extremely pleased that the latest data shows a great improvement in the overall rate," said DHEC Commissioner Earl Hunter. "But, to realize exactly what this means, you have to break down the numbers by race. Once you do that, you realize that South Carolina's rates are almost identical to national rates."

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The state's infant mortality rate for white babies in 2006 was 5.7, compared to a provisional national rate of 5.6. South Carolina's rate for black and other races was 13.2, while the provisional national rate for this group was 13.3.

"What these numbers show us is good news because of the fact that the death rates have dropped for normal and low birth rate babies in all races," Hunter said. "But the numbers also remind us that there is still much to be done to close the gap in the large racial disparity that exists in the state. Eliminating that disparity continues to be a top public health priority. The complexity of the infant mortality problem requires everyone to work together to reduce the infant death rate and eliminate disparities."

Of the leading causes contributing to infant death, SIDS, was once again the number one preventable cause of death. According to Hunter, the risk of losing a child to SIDS or suffocation can be greatly reduced by using safe sleeping practices.

"The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends infants be placed for sleep on their back, on a firm sleep surface such as a crib mattress covered by a sheet. Soft objects such as pillows, comforters, bumper pads and stuffed toys, as well as loose bedding, should be kept out of the crib. It's also important to avoid overheating the infant with extra blankets and clothing."

Hunter also emphasized that, in order to reduce infant mortality, it is important to improve the health and well being of the mother even before she becomes pregnant.

"Women should talk with their doctor about ways to get ready for a healthy pregnancy," he said. "They should see their health care provider as soon as they think they are pregnant; have check ups often; and avoid tobacco smoke. Those are the best ways to care for both the health of the mother and the health of the baby."