Local News

Officials Credit Campaigns, Legislation For Keeping Kids Alive

Posted October 12, 2004 1:16 a.m. EDT

— Whether it is illness, injury or accidental, more than 115 children per 1,000 died in North Carolina in 1989. Fifteen years later, officials claim that number is down by one-third, thanks to new awareness campaigns and legislation.

According to the

North Carolina Child Fatality Task Force

, fewer children are dying in North Carolina than ever before. Last year, there were 73.3 deaths per 100,000 children younger than 18. That figure is down about half a percentage point from 2002 and 31 percent over the past 12 years.

"We've made progress in virtually all areas. The rate by age category, whether it's infants, or (people ages) 1 to 4, 5 to 17, etc., have gone down in every area," said Tom Vitaglione, co-chairman of the task force.

Officials are pleased about the progress made in one area: deaths in motor vehicle accidents. That number went down about 6 percent, thanks to new child restraint requirements and the graduated drivers license system.

However, the news is not all good. The number of babies who died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) went up 23 percent.

"We're real concerned. We don't know why and that's what this task force is all about," Vitaglione said. "First, we take a look at what happened. Then we say, 'Why did that happen?'"

Task force members said parents can be key to reducing other deaths as well such as those from fires, drownings and accidental shootings.

"We need to figure out better ways to get through to adults to remind them that protecting their kids should be their No. 1 priority," Vitaglione said.

Officials said the rise in SIDS and birth defects has kept North Carolina near the top when comes to infant mortality. It ranks about 45 out of the 50 states. The Task Force and the Department of Health and Human Services plan to collaborate to try to reduce that.