RALEIGH — The infant mortality rate in North Carolina dropped in 2008 and the rate among minorities reached the lowest level in state history, according to numbers released Friday by the state Department of Health and Human Services.
The state's infant mortality rate of 8.2 deaths per 1,000 live births was down 3.5 percent from 2007 but still slightly above the all-time low of 8.1 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2006. After near steady declines in the 1980s and 1990s, the state's infant mortality rate has fluctuated this decade.
Among minorities, the infant mortality rate last year was 13.5 deaths per 1,000 live births, down from the previous record low of 13.6 deaths per 1,000 births in 2006.
National numbers for 2008 are not yet available, but North Carolina's infant mortality rate has traditionally been higher than the nation's. In 2005 and 2006, only six states had higher rates than North Carolina.
State officials say many women who become pregnant have underlying risk factors that could lead to birth defects, premature births and other problems. In 2007, more than half of women of childbearing age in the state were overweight or obese; 24 percent smoked, 10 percent had high blood pressure and 25 percent lacked health insurance.