Forsyth County infant mortality rates drastically increase

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.-- New infant mortality statistics for 2011 show Forsyth County's infant mortality rate rose 28.9% from 2010 signaling a huge increase in potential health problems say county officials.

The new numbers show 10 infant deaths for every 1,000 live births in the county. In all, 46 children younger than one year old died in 2011.

Forsyth County Health Director Marlon Hunter says there is not a single reason for the increase instead he says it proves despite multiple programs geared to help expectant mothers, there are still mothers in need.

"It's an indication we don't have a handle on some of major risk factors and causes of infant mortality in our community. One death is one death too many," said Hunter.

Health officials say the rates show a big jump in African American infant deaths too.

Health officials say poverty, alcohol use, smoking, stress, lack of employment, lack of affordable housing and lack of education play a role in infant mortality.

The Forsyth County Health Department also says many mothers don't breast feed. Breast feeding helps babies develop and reduces the risk of many diseases and obesity in both the mother and child.

Forsyth County is now offering stickers and signs for businesses, doctor's offices, churches and other places interested in being identified as safe places for breast feeding. They hope that will encourage more mothers to breast feed.

Bottom line officials say the numbers prove one thing. 

"We need to get our women and girls as healthy as they can be before pregnancy," said Debbie Mason of the Forsyth County Infant Mortality Reduction Coalition.