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Data released by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services yesterday show, after reaching a record low in 2010, North Carolina’s infant mortality rate experienced a slight uptick in 2011, from 7.0 to 7.2 deaths per 1,000 live births.

The infant mortality rate is often used as a measure of the overall health of a population.  Infant mortality reflects several factors ranging from maternal health, public health practices, and socioeconomic conditions, to the ability of infants and pregnant women to access appropriate health care. 

North Carolina has made progress in efforts to reduce infant mortality. Just three decades ago, our state had the worst infant mortality rate in the nation, with 15 in every 1,000 babies born in the state failing to live to their first birthday. Today, the state ranks 45th in the nation for infant mortality, and is inching towards the national average. 

Sustained improvements in infant mortality require an intentional vision for healthy women, pregnancies and babies in North Carolina, as well as continued investments in programs that have been shown to improve those areas. As my colleague Tom Vitaglione, our senior fellow in health and safety, says in the following video, recent actions by the General Assembly have resulted in episodic funding to key infant mortality reduction programs, forcing them to reduce the number of women and children who receive critical education, training and other services.   

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