Welcome to the inaugural edition of "incite," the
North Carolina Healthy Start Foundation's monthly
feature focusing on the health and well-being of
women and young children in North Carolina. Our goal
is to provide you - members of the health community,
government agencies, community groups and individuals
- with information to take into your personal and
professional lives. We urge you to incorporate featured
material in newsletters, presentations, online resources,
discussion groups, etc.
This month we present a broad overview of infant
mortality in our state, setting the stage for what
we hope is a year full of insight and
discovery in an attempt to positively impact the
lives of North Carolinians.
State of the State: Infant Mortality in North Carolina
In August 2005, the North Carolina Department of Health
and Human Services released the latest infant mortality
statistics and the news wasn't good. Infant mortality
rates have increased for the first time since 1998,
with significant change among the state's minority
populations, notably African Americans whose rate escalated
10% the past year.
While national rates began to go up a year ago, North
Carolina's increase comes at a time when the state's
infant mortality rates were at an all-time low of 8.2
deaths per 1,000 live births in each of 2002 and 2003.
State infant mortality rates experienced an overall
decrease of 35% between 1988 and 2003.
Today, more than 1,000 North Carolina babies die each
year, one every nine hours.
So what's happening? State health officials theorize
that a decrease in fetal deaths (less than 20 weeks
gestation) may be partially attributable to the rate
increase. Many "fragile" babies that may have previously
died before birth are now being delivered alive, but
are unable to survive their first year of life.
Health officials have also begun to draw a strong
correlation between the overall health of women in
North Carolina (mothers) and the impact on a baby's
survival. While prenatal care was once believed to
be the single most important factor leading to positive
birth outcomes, recent findings suggest a more substantial
healthy lifestyle is critical. Long-term affects of
smoking, poor nutrition, untreated chronic health conditions,
infections, obesity, drug abuse and other unhealthy
behaviors cannot be reversed by prenatal care, and
therefore the negative affects of these practices play
significant roles in the health of a baby.
Recent findings, such as the North Carolina Women's
Health Report Card, suggest that the health of our
state's female population is far from ideal. Currently,
North Carolina has high rates of obesity, inactivity,
smoking and sexually transmitted diseases and ranks
near the bottom nationally with regard to public health
Many health organizations, including the North Carolina
Healthy Start Foundation have begun addressing this
trend by placing more emphasis on overall women's health,
particularly for women of childbearing age. Health
educators note that behavior modification and willingness
to adapt one's lifestyle will be central to advancing
the infant mortality reduction cause.
What are the leading causes of
Prematurity (before 37 weeks gestation), low birthweight
(less than 5.5 lbs), birth defects and Sudden Infant
Death Syndrome (SIDS) are the leading causes of infant
What is infant morbidity?
Infant morbidity is the rate of sickness among the
infant population. Oftentimes, babies born low birthweight,
premature and/or with certain birth defects do manage
to survive, but with subsequent physical, emotional
and learning disabilities.
Women's overall health is the "next frontier" in this
continued battle. Aggressively educating the public
of best practices and behaviors will not only ensure
a healthier female population, but is an essential
next step in helping secure a brighter tomorrow for
future generations of North Carolina children.
here for more information regarding infant mortality
in North Carolina
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