COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina has reported a 7% drop in infant deaths from 2019 and 2020.
But the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control says the rate of babies dying before their first birthday is likely still above the national average.
The agency’s annual report says that 364 of the 55,713 babies born in South Carolina last year died within their first year.
Public health officials say the decrease in deaths is promising but disparities are widening between white babies and babies of color.
“Ideally, we want to see a decline in South Carolina’s infant mortality rate each year until that number is as small as possible – close to zero,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, DHEC Public Health Director. “The decrease in the number of infant deaths for 2020 is encouraging, but the report also spotlights areas where significant more work needs to be done to improve birth outcomes for women of color. The disparity in infant deaths between white women and women of color is unfortunately widening and must be addressed.”
The death rate for Black babies was more than double that of white infants last year.
Officials say one barrier to infant health is access to prenatal care.