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Child death rate drops to record low

By Shavonne Potts
spotts@salisburypost.com
In North Carolina the child death rate decreased to its lowest rate ever recorded, based on a study by the N.C. Child Fatality Task Force.
The commission studies child deaths and makes recommendations to prevent future deaths. The study shows a 5 percent decrease from 2007, an 18 percent decrease in the past decade and a 33 percent decrease since the inception of the Task Force in 1991.
The most recent data collected is for 2008 and compares the differences from 2004 through 2008.
The 2008 data is gathered by the State Center for Health Statistics and the Child Fatality Staff in the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. The report details the cause of deaths for infants and children 1 to 17 years old.
The highest incidents of deaths in Rowan County were for children younger than 1 year of age. In 2008, 11 children died in Rowan County who were younger than 1.
The report also shows seven infants died in 2008 from prenatal conditions, which was the highest number of incidents in Rowan.
Data collected also shows there were three infants who died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, one child died from poison, one from a motor vehicle and two from illnesses. There were no homicides reported in Rowan County in 2008.
Leonard Wood is chairman of the Rowan County Child Fatality Prevention Team, which also looks at measures that can be done to prevent child deaths.
The team, which includes the Rowan County District Attorney’s Office, Guardian ad Litem and local judges, meets biannually to review cases “to decide after the fact if there is something that could’ve been done to prevent that death,” Wood said.
Wood said there aren’t systemic things that can be changed. For example, a parent who does not place a child in a seat belt or other child safety restraint is considered a systemic issue that can’t be prevented.
Instead the group can educate and inform parents about the dangers of not properly restraining children in seat belts.
One way to reduce the infant mortality rate, Wood said is through prenatal programs that provide comprehensive prenatal care to mothers who are uninsured or who have no income.
“We know there is a higher number of women who have low birth rate babies who do not receive early comprehensive prenatal care,” he said.
The Rowan County Health Department, which Wood heads, provides a Maternity Care Coordination Program, that gives assistance to mothers through birthing classes, medical home visits and referrals.
Wood said the number of Rowan deaths has declined over the years, but Rowan is the sixth worst state in the country with a high infant mortality rate and 44th in this state.
Rowan County had a total of 18 infant and child deaths reported in 2008.
Cabarrus County also had a total of 18 deaths reported in 2008. Totals for 2009 will be calculated at the end of the year.
Of the 100 counties in North Carolina there were 23 who had a higher death rate than Rowan County, with some counties including Wake and Mecklenburg reaching in the 100s.
Rowan County is not the lowest, but in the middle range, the report shows.
Caswell County had one death and Swain County also reported one death, both were the result of birth defects. Jones County reported one death as a result of a prenatal condition. Hyde and Tyrrell counties had none.
In the state as a whole, the number of motor vehicle-related deaths decreased by more than 10 percent. The Task Force attributes that second straight year drop with less people consuming gas because of high prices. It is also likely due to a series of safety laws the group recommended throughout the years including a graduating driver’s license system, child passenger safety seats and booster seats, enhancements in seat belt laws and all-terrain vehicle safety requirements.
The report was released earlier this month.
The data is available at www.ncchild.org.

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