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For Immediate Release
October 29, 2014

South Carolina's Infant Mortality Rate Drops to Record Low

Columbia, S.C.- New data released today by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) shows a significant reduction in South Carolina's infant mortality rate.

An analysis of the agency's 2013 data shows that between 2005 and 2013, the state's infant mortality rate dropped by over 25 percent, from 9.5 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2005 to 6.9 in 2013.

"This is the first time in recorded history that South Carolina's infant mortality rate has been this low," said DHEC Director Catherine Templeton. "While there are plenty of things in this world that we cannot control, DHEC and its partners have been addressing those things that are avoidable to save the lives of babies."

One of the sharpest declines in infant deaths was among African-American babies,
with rates dropping from 12.5 in 2012 to 10 in 2013. While disparities in infant mortality rates by race persist, South Carolina's racial disparity gap in infant mortality rates between African-Americans and Whites has fallen below the national average. Nationally, African-American babies have a death rate 2.23 times that of White babies. The data shows that South Carolina has reduced that gap to 1.82 in the last year, down from 2.36 in 2012.

To reduce the number of infant deaths and continue to close the gap in disparities, DHEC is partnering with organizations across the state to focus on long and short-term initiatives. This includes supporting prenatal programs, safe sleep efforts, and improving health between pregnancies.

"The most important work is really being done by the families that are bringing home new babies," said Dr. Amy Picklesimer, obstetrician at Greenville Health System and clinical lead for the Birth Outcomes Initiative. "Through programs like Centering Pregnancy, we are providing parents with the tools they need to make the good decisions that are keeping their children safe; there is less smoking, more breastfeeding, and more families practicing safe sleep."

"The March of Dimes is excited that the infant mortality rate in our state is declining," said Mona Carter, State Director, March of Dimes South Carolina Chapter. "By collaborating with DHEC and other organizations we will continue working to reduce the toll of preterm birth - the leading cause of infant death - by focusing our efforts on smoking cessation, reducing disparities, and improving health between pregnancies."

Another sharp decline in infant deaths was in areas related to safe sleep practices. According to 2013 data, there was a 41% drop in accidental sleep-related deaths. In addition, deaths due to accidental suffocation in bed declined from 39 in 2012 to 23 in 2013.

"Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and sleep-related accidents are among the leading causes of infant mortality in South Carolina," said Sue Williams, chief executive officer of Children's Trust of South Carolina. "This data suggests our ongoing safe sleep education efforts are making a difference. Collaborating with our partners at DHEC and our Safe Sleep Coalition, Children's Trust has developed a new training curriculum to further share safe sleep best practices. We will continue to identify at-risk populations and areas in South Carolina with the highest numbers of sleep-related deaths and provide education and services to those communities."

In addition to work underway by the agency and its partners, citizens continue to play a vital role in the promotion of infant safety. To reduce the risk of infant death, South Carolinians are encouraged to take the following preventive measures:

  • Remember the ABCs: leave your baby Alone on their Back in their Crib without blankets, pillows, or bumper pads.
  • Get healthy before you get pregnant:
    • Quit smoking - Pregnant women can call our Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW for free help.
    • Get chronic conditions like diabetes and hypertension under control.

Please click here for a summary of South Carolina Infant Mortality data for 2013.

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In 2013, DHEC published the state's first-ever plan to reduce the rate of infant mortality, "Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies: South Carolina's Plan to Reduce Infant Mortality & Premature Births." Classified into three priority areas, the strategies defined in the plan focus on: (1) access to systems of care, (2) evidence-based patient practices, and (3) health across the lifespan. For more information about the state plan, please visit http://www.scdhec.gov/library/CR-010842.pdf.

Cassandra Harris
Public Information Officer
harriscs@dhec.sc.gov
803.898.1127