The racial disparity in infant mortality rates for South Carolina has dropped below the national average for the first time.
Overall, South Carolina’s overall infant mortality rate has declined from 9.5 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2005 to 6.9 in 2013, according to statistics provided by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC).
The 2013 number is an all-time low for the state.
In addition, the mortality rate of Black infants has also dropped—from 12.5 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2012 to 10 in 2013.
Nationally, African-American babies have a death rate 2.23 times that of White babies. South Carolina shortened that gap, dropping from 2.36 in 2012 to 1.82 in 2013.
“This is the first time in recorded history that South Carolina’s infant mortality rate has been this low,” said Department of Health and Environmental Control Director Catherine Templeton on the department website. “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.”
DHEC has been partnering with healthcare and nonprofit organizations around the state to focus on long- and short-term initiatives, such as supporting prenatal programs and 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 state hopes to foster more programs to continue this steady decline in infant mortality ratios.
One of the sharpest declines in infant deaths in the state was in areas related to safe sleeping. There was a 41 percent drop in accidental sleep-related deaths, according to data from 2013, and deaths due to accidental suffocation in bed decreased 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.”