South Carolina’s infant mortality rate remained the same last year, another indication one of the nation’s highest rates has leveled off again after years of declines.
Roughly 7 newborns out of every 1,000 in South Carolina died in 2016, according to data released this week by the state Department of Health and Environmental Control. That rate is the same as a year earlier. While the state’s infant mortality rate has dropped significantly from 9.5 per every 1,000 births just two decades ago, it has stayed about the same for the past four years and remains one of the highest in the country.
“When we look at certain things related to safe sleep (for infants), this is something that’s a very concerning problem in our state,” director of DHEC’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau Kimberly Seals said. “Although the number has increased only slightly, it’s still a very preventable issue.”
The DHEC report stated the leading causes of infant deaths were birth defects and issues related to low birth weights and premature births. While the number of newborn deaths due to issues with early births or low weight actually decreased in the past year, more infants died from defects.
Seals said the agency is working with hospitals, clinics and obstetricians to have a more consistent message for young mothers about preventative measures that can prevent problems later in a pregnancy, such as smoking, alcohol and exercise or diet. She also said mothers need to get medical help as quickly as possible to identify potential birth defects early on, increasing the likelihood a child survives outside the womb.
“It’s about making sure that women have access certain resources with regards to birth defects and making sure they get into early prenatal care,” she told South Carolina Radio Network.
Mortality rates among minority infants is also a driver for South Carolina’s comparatively-high rate. The report found the rate for minorities was 10.0 last year, compared to 5.5 among white newborns. However, the rate among minority infants has dropped by 39 percent since 1999.