South Carolina’s Infant Mortality Rate Decreases; Still Above National Average

An annual report released by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) shows overall improvements in outcomes for infants in the first year of life, with the state’s 2022 infant mortality rate decreasing by nearly 7% compared to the previous year.

In 2022, 392 infants died during the first year of life in South Carolina, which is down from 416 in 2021. During the same period, the national infant mortality rate rose by 3%.

While the racial disparity in infant mortality rates between White and Black women decreased from 2021 to 2022 in South Carolina, the rate remains twice as high among live births to Black women (11.2) compared to White women (5.2) and Hispanic women (4.1) in 2022.

“We are pleased with the improvements we see in this year’s report; however, it’s critical that we continue our focus on improving the health outcomes for all of South Carolina’s newborns,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, DHEC deputy director of Health Promotion and Services & Chief Medical Officer. “The data is clear: we must do more to help ensure women of color have access to resources that will help improve birth outcomes for our state’s minority population and close the gaps we continue to see in mortality rates. All babies born in South Carolina deserve an equal opportunity to live a long, happy and healthy life.”

The three leading causes of infant death in South Carolina in 2022 were:

  1. Congenital malformations or birth defects
  2. Disorders related to short gestation and low birthweight (being born prematurely or at a low weight)
  3. Accidents

Combined, these three categories account for more than 2 in 5 infant deaths in 2022.

Deaths due to accidents had the largest increase (46%) over the past year, which increased the rank from fifth in 2021 to third in 2022. Of the 36 deaths due to accidents, 29 were caused by accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed.

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) remained the fourth leading cause of infant death, having a 37.6% increase from 2021 to 2022.

“Accidental deaths are preventable, and we want to ensure that we do everything we can to keep parents from experiencing the unimaginable tragic loss of a child,” said Danielle Wingo, DHEC director of the Bureau of Maternal and Child Health. “The increase in deaths due to accidents demonstrates a real need for continuous education and emphasis on safe sleeping practices for each generation of families in South Carolina. DHEC will continue our work with partners to explain how critically important safe sleeping practices, especially putting a baby alone on their back in their own crib or bassinet to sleep, are for children in that first year of life.”

DHEC administers many programs committed to improving the health of women and infants before, during and after pregnancy.

DHEC and the State’s Title V program continue to partner with entities such as the South Carolina Hospital Association, South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, and the South Carolina Chapter of the March of Dimes. The Title V program remains an active participant of the South Carolina Birth Outcomes Initiative to address access to quality maternal, infant and child health services, including preventive and primary care, access to prenatal, delivery and postnatal care to women, and regular screenings and follow-up.

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Written by SCDHEC.