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Given South Carolina's No. 2 ranking for women being killed by men they know, an insufficient number of dentists to care for its Medicaid patients, and its designation as having the 10th-highest rate of adult obesity, it's refreshing to get some good news: Infant mortality has dropped.

Not only is it down from 7.6 deaths per 1,000 in 2012 to 6.9 in 2013, it is the lowest it has been since those data first were processed, decades ago.

More good news: The disparities in infant mortality rates by race have declined. In 2012, African American babies had a death rate 2.36 times that of white babies. Last year, the gap was 1.82 times.

And while public health officials are reluctant to declare a long-term victory - the drop could be an anomaly - the short-term victory is worthy of note.

Perhaps babies are benefiting from efforts to provide better preventive care for pregnant women and to teach them about nursing and safety at home.

South Carolina's infant mortality rate (babies dying before their first birthday) is not yet as low as the nation's, but sadly the nation's rate of 6.1 deaths per 1,000 births is a low bar to set. That's about 25,000 babies a year.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. has a higher infant mortality rate than any of the world's other 27 wealthy countries.

A baby born in this country is three times as likely to die as one in Finland or Japan and twice as likely to die as one in South Korea.

Infant mortality rates are related to the rate of premature births because babies are less likely to survive when they are born before 22 weeks of gestation.

Those premies also provide a measurement glitch. In some countries, including France, Ireland, Norway and Poland, infants who are born before 22 weeks' gestation are not counted as births, as they are in the U.S.

But however it is measured, when 0.06 percent of babies die before they turn a year old, it is too many. So S.C.'s Department of Health and Environmental Control is right to continue addressing the issue and is wise to form partnerships with organizations having similar goals.

DHEC collaborates with the March of Dimes in South Carolina in an effort to reduce the number of pre-term births by encouraging women to stop smoking.

Then there is the South Carolina Birth Outcomes Initiative by the S.C. Department of Health and Human Services, South Carolina Hospital Association, March of Dimes, Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina and others. DHEC also works toward improving the health outcomes for newborns not only in the Medicaid program but throughout the state's population.

South Carolinians have good reason to be pleased that the infant mortality rate has decreased. But they should not be content until South Carolina and the U.S., the world's wealthiest nation, enjoy as low a rate as Japan and Finland., latest News Around the world presents the latest information of national, regional, and international, politics, economics, sports, automotive, and lifestyle.

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Good news for S.C. newborns
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