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DHEC: SC sees decline in infant mortality rate, may still be higher than national average

File photo of infant's feet.
File photo of infant's feet.(Unsplash)
Published: Jan. 6, 2022 at 1:22 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) released an annual report showing a decline in the state’s infant mortality rate, however, the numbers show a drop in babies born and a widening racial disparity in infant deaths.

The figure is also believed to be higher than the national average.

Infant mortality is defined as the death of a live-born baby before its first birthday. The infant mortality rate is defined by the number of babies who die within the first year of life.

“Ideally, we want to see a decline in South Carolina’s infant mortality rate each year until that number is as small as possible – close to zero,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, DHEC Public Health Director. “The decrease in the number of infant deaths for 2020 is encouraging, but the report also spotlights areas where significant more work needs to be done to improve birth outcomes for women of color.”

Traxler said the disparity of infant deaths between white women and women of color is widening and must be addressed.

The infant mortality rate for 2020 was 6.5 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, which is 7 percent lower than 2019′s rate (6.9 infant deaths per 1,000 live births).

According to the CDC, the national average was 5.58 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2019. The CDC has not released 2020′s figures.

DHEC also released the following statistics:

  • 55,713 babies born in 2020, which is 2.3% fewer babies than in 2019
  • 364 infants died within their first year of life, nearly 7% fewer infant deaths than in 2019
  • The infant mortality rate (IMR) was lowest among births to non-Hispanic White women (4.5 infant deaths per 1,000 live births)
  • The IMR was more than twice as high among live births to non-Hispanic Black women (2.4 disparity ratio; 10.8 infant deaths per 1,000 live births), 20% higher among births to Hispanic women (1.2 disparity ratio; 5.2 infant deaths per 1,000 live births), and 40% higher among births to non-Hispanic women of other races (1.4 disparity ratio; 6.3 infant deaths per 1,000 live births).
  • Between 2016 and 2020, the disparity in infant mortality has widened between births to non-Hispanic White women compared to births to non-Hispanic Black women and non-Hispanic women of other races but has remained relatively stable when compared to births to Hispanic women.

“This year’s report shows some improvements, such as a decrease in overall IMR and reductions in postneonatal mortality, however, it’s clear to see that minority groups are continuing to experience the majority of these heartbreaking losses,” said Kimberly Seals, DHEC’s Director of the Bureau of Maternal and Child Health. “We need better education among all expecting parents about how critical it is for pregnant women to receive consistent prenatal care by attending all of their checkups and following their doctor’s recommendations.”

DHEC’s Director, Dr. Edward Simmer said that there is a problem with access to high-quality prenatal and maternity care, especially in rural areas of the state.

“We need to improve access to care across the state and are committed to working with our partners to achieve this goal,” said Simmer.

To read the full Infant Mortality and Selected Birth Characteristics Report, click here.

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