Ashe County had an infant mortality rate of three deaths per 1,000 lives births from 2007 to 2011, earning it the status of the second lowest infant mortality rate in North Carolina, according to recent data from the N.C. Department of Health & Human Services.
This rate is lower than Ashe County’s 2004-2008 rate of 5.1 and much lower than the county’s 1999-2003 rate of 12.2.
Ashe County has made strides over the past 12 years in infant mortality, and has done so with fewer doctors to serve it’s population, according the recently released data on infant mortality.
In 2010, Ashe County had 9.1 physicians per 10,000 population, where North Carolina had 21.7 physicians per 10,000 population, according to the Rural Data Bank.
Julie Henry from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services said “a county’s infant mortality rate is calculated by finding the relationship between deaths of children under one year old for every 1,000 live births.”
In 2011, there were no fatalities of children under the age of one in Ashe County, which contributed to the low rate from 2007-2011.
Ashe County’s neighbors also scored low infant morality rates, though not as low as Ashe County’s. From 2007-2011, Alleghany County had a rate of 7.9, Watauga County had a rate of 5.4, and Wilkes County had a rate of 7.6.
The only county with a lower infant mortality rate in N.C. from 2007-2011 was Mitchell County, which scored a rate of 2.6. The highest infant mortality rate in N.C. belonged to Jones County, which had a rate of 22.3.
In spite of Ashe County’s low infant mortality rate, the N.C. Department of Health & Human Services warns against judging infant mortality rates from counties with low populations and a low number of deaths.
“Rates based on less than 10 deaths are unreliable and should be interpreted with caution,” said a report issued from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.
Ashe County, Alleghany County, and Mitchell County all had less that 10 deaths occur from 2007-2011, which means their low infant mortality rates could be a result of skewed data.
According to nchealthystart.org, a website operated by the N.C. Healthy Start Foundation, there are several different causes of infant mortality. The leading causes of infant deaths in North Carolina during 2011 were prematurity and low birth-weight, birth defects, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Prematurity refers to babies who are born before 37 weeks of gestation and low birth-weight refers to babies who are born weighing less than five and a half pounds, according to nchealthystart.org.