Saturday, 29 January 2011

SIDS: North Carolina statistics

Sharon McBrayer

The leading cause of death for children in Catawba County is something going wrong before they are born.
That’s according to a 2009-10 annual report from the Catawba County Community Child Protection/Child Fatality Team. The team, made up of representatives from agencies and groups around the county, review each child death that occurs in the county.
The county had 23 child deaths last fiscal year. Ten children died from prenatal issues in Catawba, while five died from illness, four from motorcycle accidents, one from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and one from homicide.
Two others died from reasons not disclosed, according to the report. Any time a death is ruled undetermined, that decision is made by the medical examiner, said Jennifer McCracken, who serves on the team and is manager of Catawba County Public Health Services.
Of the cases of child death in the county, six had active child protective services involvement, according to information from the team.
The information says child protective services received 2,570 reports. Of the 1,604 cases accepted that met state criteria (3,660 children), 9 percent were reports of abuse and 91 percent were reports of neglect. Information from the report says 92 percent of the families served didn’t have a recurrence of child maltreatment within a 12-month period.
The most recurring issues found were prenatal care, SIDS, unsafe sleeping patterns, motor vehicle accidents, substance abuse and domestic violence issues, according to information supplied by John Eller, director of Catawba County Social Services. The report was presented recently to county commissioners.
Because of what the group learned through reviewing the deaths, it will focus on preventing distracted driving, co-sleeping and prenatal care, McCracken said.
Eller, who serves on the team, said the group also will focus on prevention of abuse and neglect.
“The importance of this team is to focus on child protection and also assess all childhood fatalities regardless of whether social services was involved,” Eller said. “This allows us to focus on this issue from a systemic and community perspective. That is the key.”
McCracken said the state sends the team birth and death records and then it pulls needed records from various agencies, including hospitals. The team, which has more than 20 members, then reviews the death to see what recommendations it can make to prevent the same kind of death from happening in the future, she said.
For instance, because the highest number of child deaths occurred because of prenatal issues, the team will work to get the word out that women need to immediately start care within the first trimester of pregnancy, McCracken said. The team also will focus on distracted driving, she said. 
Eller said, “No one agency, whether it be law enforcement, public health, the court system or social services can ensure the protection of children alone. It takes all of us, public agencies and citizens in the community alike. While North Carolina has made great strides in the protection of children, our resolve should be to strive for prevention through education, advocacy and proper intervention.”
The state just released its 2011 annual report to the Governor and the state General Assembly. Birth defects and other birth-related conditions were the top causes of child fatalities in 2009, with 755 deaths combined, according to the report. The state had a total of 1,486 child deaths in 2009, which was down from 1,573 in 2008, the report says.

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