Comprehensive report examines causes of death among children in North Carolina

Infant mortality and gun deaths among children increased in 2020
The front cover of the 2020 Child Fatality Task Force report
The front cover of the 2020 Child Fatality Task Force report(NC CFTF)
Published: May. 12, 2022 at 11:38 AM EDT
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RALEIGH, N.C. (WECT) - The N.C. Child Fatality Task Force released its latest report on the causes of death among children. The comprehensive report covers mental health, infant mortality rates, e-cigarettes and many other issues.

During 2020, 1,279 children died in North Carolina. The report notes that this death rate is half of what it was in the task force’s first report in 1991, but the rate has practically stagnated in the past 10 years. The causes for these deaths vary by age.

Table from the NC CFTF's 2020 report
Table from the NC CFTF's 2020 report(NC CTCF)
Leading causes of child death by age group, from the 2020 NC CFTF report
Leading causes of child death by age group, from the 2020 NC CFTF report(NC CFTF)

Infant deaths comprise of 63% of the total, with the most common causes being short gestation, low birthweight and birth defects. North Carolina has the 8th highest infant mortality rate in the United States. The infant mortality rate is also 2.5% higher for Black children than for white children.

Excluding infants, the most common causes of death for children were homicide, motor vehicle injuries, other unintentional injuries and suicide.

2020 also saw a spike in children dying from firearm injuries alongside a spike in firearm sales overall. Suicide rates have nearly double in the past 10 years, and about half of youth suicides in North Carolina are done with a firearm. In total, firearms were a factor in the 105 deaths, almost 200 hospitalizations and over 435 emergency department visits of children in the state.

E-cigarette use has increased substantially in the past several years, and one in five high schoolers use e-cigarettes which can contain high amounts of nicotine.

To attempt to address some of these issues, the report also provides recommendations for legislation to try and amend these issues.

With data indicating that the majority of gun owners store at least one gun unsafely, they recommend an awareness initiative to raise awareness for safe firearm storage.

They also recommend increased youth mental health funding in schools to improve outcomes. 47 states already participate in a national data system, and the report suggests that North Carolina would benefit from the more robust data collection and analysis these tools provide.

The report recommends ignition interlocks for alcohol impaired DWI offenders. These are installed in vehicles to prevent people from driving unless they can provide a breath sample which passes the test.

Another recommendation is for the state to increase funding significantly to prevent children from using and abusing products with tobacco and nicotine.

Given the 150 child pedestrian deaths between 2010 and 2019, the report recommends eliminating the NC law which prohibits state transportation funding from going towards independent bike and pedestrian projects.

You can view the full 65-page report online. Per the CFTF:

The North Carolina Child Fatality Task Force (CFTF) is a legislative study commission that examines the causes of child death and makes recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly on how to prevent child death, prevent abuse and neglect, and support the safety and well-being of children.

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