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N.C. infant mortality rate hits record low

North Carolina's infant mortality rate dropped in 2009 to the lowest level since records have been kept, public health officials said Friday.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina’s infant mortality rate dropped in 2009 to the lowest level since records have been kept, public health officials said Friday.

The overall infant mortality rate was 7.9 deaths per 1,000 live births last year, compared with 8.2 percent in 2008. The previous low was 8.1 percent in 2006.

Still, officials said, the infant mortality rate among minorities rose last year after reaching a record low in 2008. Minority infants continue to die at 2.6 times the rate of white children, and minority women experience markedly higher rates of low and very low birth weight babies.

“Racial health disparities, especially among women of child-bearing age, must continue to be one of our top priorities,” State Health Director Jeff Engel said in a statement. “That means continued investment at the state and federal levels in preventing high-risk conditions like diabetes and hypertension, as well as ensuring access to good pre-conception, prenatal and infant care.”

Deaths attributed to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome decreased from 136 deaths in children under age 1 in 2008 to 98 in 2009, according to an annual state report. Deaths from accidental suffocation also decreased from 21 in 2008 to seven in 2009.

“While we can’t explain the unusually high number of SIDS-related deaths last year, it is good to see a return to the downward trend we had been on since 1995,” Tom Vitaglione, co-chairman of the North Carolina Child Fatality Task Force, said in a statement. “Our state is fortunate to have a dedicated Child Fatality Prevention System that reviews all child deaths and studies ways to prevent them through focused programs.”

The annual report also shows that smoking rates continue to decline among pregnant women, and teenagers under 18 who gave birth accounted for 3.5 percent of all live births, down from 3.8 percent in 2008. The number of women receiving prenatal care early in their pregnancies rose slightly, from 82 percent in 2008 to 83.3 percent.

The number of babies being born in North Carolina is down more than 3 percent overall, from a record high of 130,886 in 2007 to 126,785 births in 2009.



Matthew Burns, Web Editor

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