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July 6, 2011

State's infant death rate falls to 7.1

COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina’s 2009 infant mortality rate of 7.1 deaths for each 1,000 live births has declined from the 2008 rate of 8.0, the state Department of Health and Environmental Control reported today.

“Our state’s overall infant mortality rate shows a downward trend over the past four years,” DHEC Commissioner Earl Hunter said. “We’re pleased to see this trend continue in a positive direction as fewer infant deaths occur in South Carolina.

“The overall decline is attributed to a decrease in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) cases and instances of accidental suffocations in bed,” Hunter said.

According to Hunter, congenital malformations and disorders among infants born too soon or too small continue to be the two leading causes of death among infants less than one year of age.

“This is a multi-faceted effort, and with the commitment of our partners, such as the March of Dimes, our state’s private physician practices and faith-based organizations, pregnant women have more access to needed services,” Hunter said.

Hunter said the 2009 infant mortality rate represents the fourth year in a row the infant mortality rates among black/other infants have decreased.

“Minority women still experience infant mortality rates at 2.1 times the rate of white women,” Hunter said. “Eliminating this disparity must remain a priority.”

“The infant mortality rate is an important health outcome measure,” said Lisa Waddell, M.D., DHEC’s deputy commissioner of Health Services. “It is often used as a measure of the overall health status of a given population. It reflects the heath status of mothers and children, and is also indicative of underlying socioeconomic factors and racial disparities in health.”

According to Dr. Waddell, one way to reduce infant mortality is to improve the health and well being of the mother even before getting pregnant.

“Women should talk with their doctor about ways to get ready for a healthy pregnancy,” Dr. Waddell said. “They should see their health care provider before and as soon as they think they are pregnant; have regular prenatal visits; and avoid exposure to tobacco, alcohol and other harmful substances.

“It is important that a strong focus on the prevention and management of chronic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes continue so that women are healthy before they become pregnant,” Dr. Waddell said. “A commitment to a healthy mother is an important first step to a healthy baby.”


Dr. Waddell will be available for exclusive interviews on this subject this afternoon from 1 to 4 at DHEC’s Mills/Jarrett Complex, 1751 Calhoun Street, Columbia. Phone interviews with Dr. Waddell on this subject will also be available during this time.

To confirm a 20-minute interview session, please contact Adam Myrick at (803) 898-3884 or via email at:

A complete breakout of the data is available on DHEC's South Carolina Community Assessment Network (SCAN) website at:

For media inquiries:
Adam Myrick – (803) 898-3884
Email –