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Forsyth County Infant Mortality Rate Continues to be Unacceptable

Posted on 9/20/2010 by Dr. Tim Monroe

Forsyth County Infant Mortality Rate Continues to be Unacceptable

Forsyth County’s overall annual infant mortality rate (IMR) in 2009 remains relatively unchanged over the past two decades. According to information released today by the North Carolina State Center for Health Statistics, there were 48 infant deaths and 4,834 live births in Forsyth County in 2009 making the overall IMR 9.9 deaths per 1,000 live births; compared to 61 infant deaths and 5,096 live births in 2008 with a rate of 12.0 deaths per 1,000 live births (Graph #1). Forsyth County has the second highest overall infant mortality rate of the five (5) urban North Carolina counties. The State's overall infant mortality rate was 7.9 deaths per 1,000 live births; a decline of 3.7 percent from its 2008 rate of 8.2.

The up-and-down pattern in the annual rates over the past 20 years is due to statistical variation as shown in Graph #2. However, the polynomial trend line and the Forsyth County five-year average rate also indicates that rate remain relatively unchanged (Graph #3).

Public Health leaders have continuing concerns with the high death rates for African American babies that have plagued Forsyth County, North Carolina, and the United States for the past several decades. In Forsyth County, there was a decrease in the 2009 non-white* infant mortality rate of 17.5 from the 2008 rate of 25.3 per 1,000 live births. The 2009 white rate of 6.6 increased slightly from the 2008 rate of 6.4 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. Health inequities in infant mortality are best understood by looking at the ratio of non-white to white infant deaths. The 2009 ratio was 2.7, a decrease from 4.0 in 2008 (Graph #4). The five-year average of infant mortality rates, a more stable indicator of trends, shows that African American babies die at a rate almost 3 times that of white babies in Forsyth County. Additionally, the ratio of deaths for non-white babies in Forsyth County is consistently higher than the state as a whole.

The most common cause of infant death is prematurity and low birth weight, which is contributed to greatly by the stresses of living in poverty. The traditional approach of programs and services to address women’s health issues remains important but we must also look at larger societal factors that impact health.

*The non-white population includes all racial groups other than white, and in Forsyth County and North Carolina, it is made up of over 80% African Americans.

Contacts

To contact Dr. Tim Monroe, Health Director, please contact Lynne Mitchell at (336) 703-3110 Forsyth County Department of Public Health

Deloris Huntley (336) 748-4787
Chair, Infant Mortality Reduction Coalition