North Carolina infant mortality rates reach 31-year-low

Fewer babies dying in North Carolina

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Infant mortality rates in North Carolina reached at 31-year-low in 2018. According to the state infant mortality report, there were 6.8 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Dr. David Fisher is the Medical Director of Neonatology at Atrium Health Levine Children’s Hospital. He says lower infant death rates are in part, due to advancing technology.

One of the leading causes of infant deaths is due to babies born prematurely. Dr. Fisher says treatment techniques of premature babies have advanced which mean fewer premature babies dying.

“The therapies that we use, the ventilator, the respirator, the oxygen are not free,” Dr. Fisher said. “Those babies can be injured by those same therapies they need to survive.”

Fisher says advancing technology has made the therapies less harmful. For example, older versions of the ventilators used on premature babies would help the child breathe at a different rate than their natural breathing.

“The babies would fight the ventilator, the ventilator would have to force oxygen in which causes injury,” Fisher explained. “Now, we can time the ventilator breathing to coincide exactly with the baby’s breathing.”

Fisher says preventing premature births will help decrease the infant mortality rate too. Preventing premature births often comes down to health and wellness of the mother.

“Maternal health and maternal access to prenatal care are big factors,” Dr. Fisher said. “So as those things improve, the outcomes improve also.”

The state’s infant mortality report showed African American babies were more than 2 and a half times more likely to die compared to Caucasian babies. Governor Roy Cooper set a goal of reducing the infant mortality disparities from 2.5 to 1.92 by 2025. To reach that goal, the state has laid out a number of strategies to improve health equity.

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