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Number of Child Deaths in North Carolina Down; Wake County Has Highest Number

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RALEIGH — Last year more than 1600 children died in North Carolina. The state has worked for years to cut down the number of child deaths and progress is being made. Since 1988 the rate of child deaths has dropped 25 percent,but there is much to be done to stem the tragedy.

Losing 1600 children in a year is like wiping out a small town, allchildren. Most die of birth defects, birth-related conditions and illness.

"These 1600 children who died, that is the tip of the iceberg for childrenwho live at risk for dying," said Ilene Nelson, Child Fatality Task Force.

Unintentional injuries accounted for 329 deaths, most were accidents thatcould possibly have been avoided. The biggest jump in that category wasbicycle deaths which were up 95 percent over the average for 1992 through1995. A push for mandatory use of helmets will be made in the Legislatureand through education.

"Helmets are sports equipment and if you're going be engaging in thatsport you wear the equipment that's appropriate to that," said JonathanSher, Child Advocacy Institute.

Fires continue to kill children, often because of a lack of smoke detectors.

"We want landlords to provide them," said Nelson. "We want tenants to makesure they don't take them apart."

Forty-five children died from child abuse and neglect. The state callsfor more reporting by friends and neighbors.

"Because after the death many members of the community will say 'we aren'tsurprised, we know', but they didn't call," said Nelson.

Deaths from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome are down 16 percent over thefour-year average. The Task Force attributes that to a campaign called"Back To Sleep" which taught care givers to let infants sleep on theirbacks.

North Carolina attacks the issue of child deaths at the local and statelevels. The Child Fatality Task Force functions as a legislative studycommission and offers a legislative agenda to prevent child deaths, but itappears there is a long way to go to protect children.

North Carolina uses a three-pronged attack to cut child death and injury. Local governments look into direct causes, a state review team looks atstatewide data and the Child Fatality Task Force forges legislativeinitiatives to present to the General Assembly.

According to the study, Wake County has the highest number of child deathsin the state. In 1996, 100 children under the age of 18 died in WakeCounty. In Mecklenburg County, 99 children died, followed by GuilfordCounty with 87 deaths.

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