South Carolina has a long history of baby deaths, but new numbers released by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control show progress in reducing the infant mortality rate in this state.
Data shows the overall infant mortality rate for 2014 was 6.5 deaths per 1,000, an historic low for the state for the second straight year.
State experts say the figures show a more than 30-percent d rop in baby deaths in this state between 2005 and 2014, and a near six percent reduction from the previous year.
One of the sharpest declines was among deaths due to birth defects. A 23.3 percent reduction was recorded in that category from 2013 to 2014.
State records show while there was a small decrease in the number of birth defects in 2014, survival improved for babies with birth defects.
Another area of improvement was found in birth weight. The 2014 data indicated a 5.4 percent d rop in very low birth weight babies, or babies born weighing less than 3.3 pounds, compared to data from 2013. Very low birth weight babies are 83 times more likely to die in the first year of life compared to babies who come into this world weighing more than 5.5 pounds.
The infant mortality rate among African-Americans in South Carolina remained about the same at 10.2 deaths per 1,000 in 2014. That figure is below the national rate of just over 11 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2014. But the state saw a major reduction in the number of deaths in Hispanic babies, with a 19 percent d rop from 2013 to 2014. State health officials point out the Hispanic infant mortality rate in South Carolina in 2014 was 4.6 percent, close to the rate of white infants, which was 4.7 in 2014.
Experts say health care professionals have been working to improve the outcome for babies born in this state, and point to programs educating parents about care for babies, both during pregnancy and after birth. Health experts have been working toward preventing preterm delivery and educating parents about infant care, including where babies sleep after they are born.
To help reduce the risk of baby deaths, state experts are encouraging women to get healthy before becoming pregnant, get early and consistent prenatal care, and remember the ABCs of safe sleep for babies: leave your baby Alone, on their Backs, in their Cribs without blankets, pillows or bumper pads.