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September 22, 2010

Local efforts underway to further reduce South Carolina’s infant mortality rate

COLUMBIA -- Although the state’s 2008 infant death rate dropped to its lowest level since accurate record keeping began in the early to mid-1900’s, work is underway throughout the state to help ensure more babies have healthy and happy birthdays as the nation observes Infant Mortality Awareness Month during September, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control reported today.

“South Carolina had a six percent drop in infant deaths and the third year in a row that the infant mortality rates among black and other minorities decreased,” DHEC Commissioner Earl Hunter said. “However, we as a nation rank 29th among industrialized countries in infant mortality. We should always be looking for ways to save the lives of more babies in our state and nation.”

“In 2007 we did a detailed study of infant deaths in our region of the state,” said Becky Campbell, director of DHEC’s Region 1 public health office, which serves Abbeville, Anderson, Edgefield, Greenwood, Laurens, McCormick, Oconee and Saluda counties. “The study showed there were two high risk areas where we could make a difference in reducing the region’s infant mortality rate; safe sleep practices and preparing women for a healthy pregnancy and a healthy birth.”

Campbell said that study led to ideas and concepts now in place in the region’s eight counties.

“We start with the ‘ABC’s’ of safe sleep,” Campbell said. “That means putting your baby alone, on its back, in a crib. Hospitals and health care providers in the area have embraced the effort and are now educating parents of newborns and demonstrating safe sleep practices. Parents have been dedicated in adopting the new practices even though it may be a major change in thinking from past practices.”

“Safe sleep practices also include protecting the infant from secondhand smoke and other environmental hazards,” she said. “Quitting smoking by both the mother and father should start even before a baby is conceived. For help in preparing for a healthy infant by stopping tobacco use we recommend contacting the S.C. Tobacco Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW.”

Staff in the agency work in numerous programs with goals of healthy pregnancies and welcoming healthy babies to parents in South Carolina.

DHEC participates in seven South Carolina counties with the Nurse Family Partnership, a community-based program that partners registered nurses with low-income, first-time parents to ensure adequate prenatal care for the mother and parenting skills for the parents. DHEC provides program nurses in Anderson, Berkeley, Charleston, Dorchester, Horry, Richland and Lexington counties for the NFP effort. In the program’s two years in the state, more than 5,200 home visits have been made to nearly 400 clients who have welcomed more than 240 babies into their families.

Family planning staff in DHEC’s Region 2 which includes Greenville, Spartanburg, Pickens, Cherokee and Union counties, have made over 27,800 visits to provide clients with education, counseling and physical assessments to prepare them for healthy pregnancies and child birth.

In Beaufort County, DHEC is working with community partners to ensure pregnant women receive adequate prenatal care to improve pregnancy outcomes and healthier infants. DHEC is an active member of the Together for Beaufort’s Adequacy of Prenatal Care Coalition. Through a March of Dimes grant, a 14-hour prenatal course for Latina mothers to have a healthy pregnancy has been launched in Beaufort County and is being expanded to Jasper County.


For more information:
Thom Berry – (803) 898-3885
E-mail –