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State officials announced last week that the infant mortality rate in Maryland fell to an all-time low in 2012, and the trend is reflected in Charles County.

The overall infant mortality rate in Charles County fell from 8.2 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2011 to 3.6 in 2012. For Southern Maryland as a whole, the rate dropped from 5.9 in 2011 to 3.6 in 2012.

For the state, the rate fell from 6.7 per 1,000 live births in 2011 to 6.3 in 2012. According to a state news release, 458 infants died in 2012, compared to the 493 lost in 2011.

The overall trend shows a decrease in the number of infant deaths. The rate for the county from 2008-2012 was 6.4, down more than 30 percent from the rate of 9.2 from 2003 to 2007.

“Education and outreach activities provided by the [Fetal Infant Mortality Review] Board of Charles County and the Department of Health’s ‘Babies Born Healthy’ and ‘Infants and Toddlers’ programs have had a positive effect on the infant mortality rate in the community,” Charles County Health Officer Dr. Dianna E. Abney said. “We are pleased with the success this data indicates; however, it is imperative that our efforts continue into the future. Any infant we lose for any reason is one too many.”

The infant mortality rate for African-American children in Charles County also decreased significantly. In 2011, 11 African-American babies died in the county, while six died in 2012, dropping the rate from 13.5 to 6.7. Three white babies died in 2011, and one died in 2012.

Charles County Department of Health spokesman William Leebel said that Charles County had 1,836 live births in 2011. County-specific statistics were not available for 2012, and Leebel said there was not a breakdown by race available. Overall, 73,052 babies were born in Maryland in 2011.

Leebel said that several different factors contribute to infant mortality.

“The one factor that we definitely know is big is premature birth,” Leebel said. “There are others we can’t quite nail down, like drug, alcohol and tobacco use during pregnancy. These things put the infant much more at risk.”

Charles County Board of Education member Jennifer S. Abell, who also serves as the suburban Maryland division director for the March of Dimes, a group geared toward preventing premature births and the resulting complications, said she was pleased to hear of this year’s results.

“The March of Dimes is thrilled to see the rate of infant mortality decrease in Charles County. ... There are numerous initiatives and March of Dimes supported programs which have contributed to this decrease as well as the decrease in premature birth rates observed in recent years,” Abell wrote in an email. “Many factors have contributed to the decline in infant mortality rates in recent years, including expanded health care access for young women and parents, and expanded access to family planning services, local public health efforts, and promoting safe sleep practices. There’s still work that needs to be done, however. The March of Dimes continues its work to prevent premature birth, birth defects and infant mortality through research, education and vaccines.”

Charles County National Association for the Advancement of Colored People President Janice Wilson was similarly excited about the results.

“That’s awesome!” Wilson said Thursday. “I guess we can attribute this to more awareness and better prenatal care, along with the demographics. The African-Americans who are coming into Charles County are better educated, and with that comes better prenatal care. They also bring in higher income levels. I think it will contribute overall to better health for African-Americans. I’m just ecstatic about that. It says we’re progressing, that things are moving in the right direction.”

The full report can be found online at http://bit.ly/1dK0faK.

lrenner@somdnews.com