Child Death Rate Drops in N.C.
Posted September 18, 2007
Raleigh, N.C. — North Carolina recorded its lowest child death rate last year, continuing the downward trend of recent years, officials said Tuesday.
Statewide, 73.2 deaths per 100,000 children from birth through age 17 were reported, according to the state Center for Health Statistics. The rate is 2.5 percent lower than in 2005 and 17 percent lower than a decade ago, said Tom Vitaglione, chairman of the North Carolina Child Fatality Task Force, which was set up by state lawmakers in 1991 to study the causes of child deaths and makes recommendations to prevent future deaths.
“We are pleased with the progress that has been made for both infants and older children,” said Vitaglione, who also is a senior fellow of health and safety with Action for Children North Carolina. “However, North Carolina still ranks about 45th among the states in infant mortality. Although we have improved to about 25th in the death rates for older children, we must resolve to do even better for all of our children.”
Both the number of deaths and the death rate decreased for all age groups, except for a small increase for children ages 5-9, according to the report. Task Force Executive Director Selena Berrier said officials are examining the cases in that age group to see if there are any trends or issues that need to be addressed.
Injuries remain the leading cause of deaths in children of all ages, the report said, but the number of unintentional injuries remained the same although the number of children in the population has increased.
“It is largely the result of increased appropriations and safety legislation passed by the General Assembly, the hard work of state and local agencies and the attentiveness of parents in protecting their children,“ Vitaglione said.
Infant deaths declined, including decreases in birth defects and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
Deaths due to suicide and homicide also dropped in 2006, reversing a trend of increases in recent years. Likewise, there was a decline in firearm-related deaths, from 61 in 2005 to 45 in 2006.
“Though we are relieved to see these declines, these deaths are tragedies that we must seek to eliminate,” Berrier said.
In Wake County, 124 child deaths were recorded last year, 90 of which were among infants under age 1. Durham County recorded 46 child deaths, including 30 infants, while Johnston County and Orange County recorded 24 and 7 child deaths, respectively.
Because the numbers for each county are relatively small, the Task Force doesn't compute death rates per 1,000 children.
The Task Force will begin its annual study cycle to review the data and recommend new health and safety measures, Berrier said.
“The data present us with questions about why and how children die. Our committees are already searching for answers to these questions that will lead to recommendations to reduce child deaths,” she said.