NC Has Fewer Child Deaths In 2008
Special Report - September 15, 2009
North Carolina’s child death rate dropped in 2008 to the lowest level on record, according to data from the State Center for Health Statistics and the Child Fatality Prevention Team Research Staff. There were 71 deaths per 100,000 children aged 17 and younger in 2008. That is a five percent decrease from the 2007 figure.
The NC Child Fatality Task Forcea legislative study commission which seeks to analyze and address child deaths in the statemet September 14 to review the new data and lay out a plan for action for the coming year. According to one member of the Task Force, infant deaths always account for the majority of child deaths. Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) jumped by nearly 40 percent from 98 children in 2007 to 136 children in 2008. This year’s state budget includes a $150,000 appropriation to support the Safe Sleep Campaign, which aims to reduce SIDS and suffocation/strangulation of infants by increasing awareness and education of risks associated with both. The Task Force expressed a desire to explore reasons behind the unexpected jump and possible responses. Death by drowning and poisoning were the only other two categories to see a rise in 2008. Four additional children died of drowning, and one additional child died of poisoning over the 2007 figures.
Between 2007 and 2008, the state saw double-digit percentage drops in child fatalities resulting from illnesses, motor vehicle injuries, bicycle injuries, injuries caused by fire, and suicide. All deaths combined decreased by 16 percent or more for children between the ages of five and 14. Such large percentage changes are not unusual, because the raw numbers for each category are so small. For instance, the 25 percent drop in bicycle injuries reflects three deaths in 2008 compared to four deaths in 2007 statewide. The 15 percent drop in suicides reflects four fewer instances than the 26 deaths in 2007.
The Child Fatality Task Force largely attributes the decreases to “increased appropriations and safety legislation passed by the General Assembly, the hard work of state and local agencies, and the attentiveness of parents in protecting their children.” One member of the Task Force relayed a conversation with transportation officials about the likely correlation between the drop in deaths related to motor vehicles and decreased driving across the board due to gas prices and the economy.
Moving forward, the Task Force intends to look especially at SIDS, All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) related accidents, a breakdown of drowning in pools versus the beach or rivers, carbon monoxide alarm systems, maternity care coordinators, school bus safety, and the so-called “Choking Game,” where children attempt to get a “high” by choking themselves or each other.
“Decreasing fatalities among children in North Carolina is a very positive accomplishment,” said Brittany Farrell, research associate for the North Carolina Family Policy Council. “It is important, though, to look carefully at long-term trends, especially because slight changes in raw numbers can dramatically impact the percentage change in such small sample sizes. The good news is that North Carolina’s child fatality rate has dropped a third since 1991, news for which parents should be applauded.”
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