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November 4, 2015

South Carolina's Infant Mortality Rate Drops to Record Low for Second Year

Columbia, S.C.- New data released today by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) shows a reduction in South Carolina's infant mortality rate, helping the state to reach a historic low for the second consecutive year.

An analysis of the agency's data shows that the overall infant mortality rate for 2014 was 6.5 deaths per 1,000 live births. This includes a more than 30 percent drop in deaths among South Carolina infants between 2005 and 2014 and nearly a 6 percent reduction from the previous year.

"We are pleased to see South Carolina's infant mortality rate reach another historic low," said DHEC Director of Health Services Lisa Davis. "While we are encouraged by this year's progress, DHEC remains committed to working with our partners across the state to continue our efforts to decrease infant mortality, reduce racial disparity within birth outcomes and protect the lives of South Carolina's youngest and most vulnerable."

One of the sharpest declines in infant deaths was among deaths due to birth defects.
According to agency data, there was a 23.3 percent reduction in deaths due to birth defects from 2013 to 2014. Data from the South Carolina Birth Defects program indicate that while there was a small decrease in the number of birth defects occurring in 2014, the decrease in deaths due to birth defects is primarily due to improved survival among infants born with birth defects.

"SCHA congratulates DHEC, our collaborating partners and our birthing hospitals for reaching a new milestone in infant mortality," said President and CEO of the South Carolina Hospital Association Thornton Kirby. "Our state's improvement is extraordinary, surpassing even the 2020 goal of the Alliance for a Healthier SC. We are proud of the work of our hospitals to reduce deaths due to birth defects, which contributed significantly to last year's improvement. Even one preventable death is too many, however, and we must turn our collective attention to racial disparities in birth outcomes so we can ensure that every child in South Carolina is born healthy. Our state's hospitals are energized by the successes to date and remain committed to improving outcomes for everyone in the Palmetto State."

Another area of decline in infant deaths included those related to birth weight. According to 2014 data, there was a 5.4 percent drop in very low birth weight (less than 3.3 pounds) from 2013 to 2014. Very low birth weight babies are more than 83 times more likely to die in the first year of life than normal birth weight (more than 5.5 pounds) babies. In addition to fewer very low birth weight infants being born in 2014 than 2013, those born in 2014 were less likely to die in their first year of life.

"I'm thrilled to see the 2014 South Carolina infant mortality dropped to another historic low," said Dr. Amy Picklesimer, obstetrician at Greenville Health System and clinical lead for the Birth Outcomes Initiative. "Through the creation of programs like Mother's Milk Bank of South Carolina, the Birth Outcomes Initiative and our partners are providing parents with the tools they need to help make healthy decisions for their babies. The decrease in the rate of infant mortality shows us that parents are making good choices in caring for their infants. This includes following their doctors' advice during pregnancy in order to prevent preterm deliveries and then making good decisions about where babies sleep after they are born."

South Carolina's infant mortality rate among African-Americans remained relatively stable at 10.2 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2014. This rate remains less than the national infant mortality rate among African-American babies (11.1). In addition, the number of deaths among Hispanic infants decreased by more than 19 percent from 2013 to 2014. The Hispanic infant mortality rate in 2014 (4.6) was very close to the white infant mortality rate in 2014 (4.7).

"I am thrilled to see the infant mortality rate of our Hispanic population decreased even while the number of births to Hispanic mothers increased and remain proud of the work that PASOs' Community Health Workers and Promotores have done to foster safe pregnancies and healthy babies in Hispanic communities," said Executive Director of PASOs Julie Smithwick . "PASOs is committed to continuing our work with local and statewide partners to decrease both the infant mortality rate overall and to address racial and ethnic disparities."

DHEC continues to work with our partners, like the S.C. Hospital Association, Birth Outcomes Initiative, PASOs and the March of Dimes South Carolina Chapter, to reduce the number of infant deaths and continue to close the gap in disparities. In addition to work under way 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:

  • 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.

  • Get early and consistent prenatal care.

  • Remember the ABCs of safe infant sleep: leave your baby Alone on their Back in their Crib without blankets, pillows, or bumper pads.

Please click here for a summary of South Carolina Infant Mortality data for 2014.

For a copy and highlights of the 2014 Infant Mortality Report, click here.


Cassandra S. Harris
DHEC Media Relations
(803) 898-1127