Black children dying at twice the rate of whites

In North Carolina in 2014, 1,323 children age 17 or younger died. Many of these deaths are preventable.
In North Carolina in 2014, 1,323 children age 17 or younger died. Many of these deaths are preventable. AP

Black children die at about double the rate of white and Hispanic children in North Carolina, a report out today shows.

From birth through age 17, 93 black children die per 100,000 in the population. That’s just about twice the rate for whites (47.1) and more than twice the rate of Hispanics (42.1). The figures come this morning from the N.C. Child Fatality Task Force, created by the legislatuure to focus attention on child deaths and policies to help prevent them.

The overall child death rate has been dropping steadily since the task force was created in 1991, falling from 100.6 children per 100,000 in 1992 to 57.8 in 2014. But the gap between black and white children has persisted.

Overall, 1,323 children died in North Carolina in 2014. Almost half – 632 – were attributed to perinatal conditions and birth defects. An additional 261 were attributed to illness.

The next biggest cause was unintentional injuries, with 190. Those broke down this way: 95 in motor vehicle accidents; 33 drownings; 23 “other,” including falls and bicycle injuries; 22 suffocation; 11 in fires; and six from poisoning.

There were 46 suicides and 34 homicides. Twenty-eight deaths were attributed to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (a number that used to be much higher before the state stopped labeling many deaths that way).

Infants accounted for almost two-thirds of the child deaths. The next biggest group was age 15-17. That age group included 48 deaths by motor vehicle (the leading cause of death for this age group) and 32 suicides.

The task force said it saw a jump in suicides in 2014. The 46 suicides last year were double the number in 2010 and 2011. It will pay extra attention to how to prevent child suicides this year, including access to mental health services and prevention education in schools.

Many of these deaths are preventable, and the legislature should work closely with the task force to see whether any public policy changes can help. -- Taylor Batten