Record low South Carolina infant mortality still exceeds national average (copy)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released numbers last week that show improvements in infant mortality in the United States have plateaued. File/Staff

Infant mortality rate unchanged

The rate of babies who die during their first year of birth has improved nationally in the last decade, but in recent years, improvement in this key public health metric has plateaued.

New data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows there was no change in the national rate of infant mortality between 2014 and 2015, the most recent years for which it has published numbers.

South Carolina has a middling rate overall, compared to other states. The Palmetto State came in at 16th worst of 50 states and Washington D.C., with 6.74 infants dying each year before they reached 1 year old.

The infant mortality rate is considered an important community health measurement and is widely accepted as a key public health metric. The lower the rate, the better. The worst rates in the world are found in African countries, which reach nearly 90 deaths per 1,000 babies in the Central African Republic, according to the World Health Organization. 

The report echoes data from the Department of Health and Environmental Control released in late 2017, which also highlighted a racial divide fueled by poor maternal health and other challenges. On average, black babies fared worse than their white peers, the CDC reported.

The infant mortality rate for black babies in South Carolina was 10.52, about half a point lower than the national average for the demographic. White South Carolina babies scored less than half that rate, at 4.98. 

— Mary Katherine Wildeman