While North Carolina is consistently listed as one of the best states to live, work and play, and that the adults enjoy a healthy reproductive life, that is not true for its youngest citizens. Ensuring that our youngest citizens start life with every possible advantage is crucial.
Every year hundreds of babies die in NC before they reach their first birthday. The babies who survive, but are born too small or too early to be healthy, may face a lifetime of challenges that limit them from reaching their full potential. The facts speak for themselves. North Carolina still lags behind most states in the nation for infant deaths. In 2015 120,826 babies were born alive; 7.3 babies died for every 1,000 born alive. North Carolina continues to exceed the national average of 6 deaths per 1,000 live births. We think this is unacceptable.
Prematurity and low birthweight are the two major causes of infant deaths. Prematurity (born too early) and low birthweight (born too small) have not changed much in the last few years. 10.2 percent of babies were born premature – less than 37 weeks gestation but varies by race/ethnicity from 13.6 percent for African American babies to 8.6 percent for Latino babies (9.4 percent for white babies.) The percentage of low birthweight babies (less than 5.5 pounds) was 9.8 percent. Birth defects account for 16.6 percent of all 2015 infant deaths.
African American and American Indian babies die at twice the rate of White and Latino babies. We care about health disparities, the role of poverty, racism and stress on a pregnant woman as well as the overall health and health behaviors of women before, during and after pregnancies. These and other complex issues are interwoven into the fabric of our caring mission to eliminate preventable infant death and illness in North Carolina.