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State's Child Death Rate Increases For First Time In Four Years

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RALEIGH, N.C. — According to the N.C. Child Fatality Task Force, North Carolina's child death rate increased in 2004 for the first time in four years.

Official figures gathered by the State Center for Health Statistics show a 2004 rate of 77.7 deaths per 100,000 children less than 18 years of age.

The numbers represent a 6 percent increase from 2003, but is 27 percent lower than the rate in 1991, when the N.C. Child Fatality Task Force was established.

"Though the 6 percent increase in the child death rate is disappointing, it is not unexpected. The well-being of children, and particularly infants, is usually correlated with economic and social indicators," said a statement released today by Jennifer Tolle Whiteside and Tom Vitaglione, Co-Chairs of the NC Child Fatality Task Force. "There's no doubt that the loss of employment and the continued presence of poverty in our state is being reflected in the increase in the child death rate."

Other findings of the study include:

  • Motor vehicle-related deaths increased in 2004, and contributed significantly to the increase in deaths of 15- to 17-year-olds.
  • The number of deaths due to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) was essentially the same as in 2003, when SIDS numbers increased for the first time since the implementation of the successful Back to Sleep Campaign. State officials are already exploring this concern, along with other infant deaths associated with sleep positioning.
  • The death rate increased by 7 percent for infants and 10 percent for youth ages 15-17. The overall rates for the middle age categories actually dropped slightly.
  • There were 51 child homicides in 2004, and the average number of homicides over the past five years was 48.
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