Local News

NC infant mortality rate drops to record low

Posted November 1, 2011 11:53 a.m. EDT
Updated November 1, 2011 12:25 p.m. EDT

— North Carolina’s infant mortality rate declined sharply in 2010, reaching its lowest level in state history, officials said Tuesday.

According to the State Center for Health Statistics, 854 North Carolina children died before their first birthday in 2010. The rate of seven infant deaths for every 1,000 live births was 11.4 percent lower than 2009's statewide infant mortality rate, which was the previous record low.

The 122,302 babies born to North Carolina residents in 2010 was 3.5 percent lower than the 126,785 born in 2009.

The largest decline in infant mortality, 19.6 percent, was among African-American infants. Black infants still have the highest mortality rate, however, at 12.7 per 1,000 live births, compared with about 5 deaths per 1,000 live births for whites and Hispanics.

State Health Director Dr. Jeffrey Engel noted that many factors, including public health programs that focus on providing accessible, high-quality medical care and promoting healthy lifestyles for women of childbearing age, contributed to the improvement.

“We have set ambitious targets for improvement in all areas of public health,” Engel said in a statement, “but making North Carolina a healthier state starts with ensuring that babies are born healthy. While we should acknowledge the historic progress that has been made, the continued racial disparity in infant deaths demonstrates that our work is not yet finished.”

North Carolina’s Healthy Beginnings program has contributed to the state’s progress, officials said. The program supports 12 communities to improve birth outcomes in minority families, with an emphasis on breastfeeding, consumption of multivitamins with folic acid, safer infant sleeping practices, women’s healthy weight, reproductive life planning and elimination of tobacco use.

“Last year, 900 pregnant minority women received services through our Healthy Beginnings program without the loss of a single infant,” Engel said. “This progress is a direct result of long-term, sustained investments in promising programs to reduce infant deaths and eliminate disparities in birth outcomes.”

Cases of SIDS statewide dropped 46 percent, to 53 from 98 in 2009. Officials credited bilingual efforts to promote safe sleeping practices, which the General Assembly has funded since 2007.