Recently, the infant mortality rates were announced. This rate is determined by the number of infant deaths that occur in the first year of life.
Generally, you look at trends over a five-year period, which helps remove the statistical blips that invariably occur year to year. However, for 2016 Robeson County’s rate was 6.2, which was better than the state’s rate of 7.2. The white rate and rates for African-Americans is better than the state’s and the American Indian rate nearly matches the state. Many providers have worked hard on the issues that surround infant mortality and it is reinforcing to see some positive outcomes. But again, one must be reminded that one year does not necessarily represent a trend.
Countering the good news is the fact that we have the fifth worst rate of children’s deaths (1-17) over the past five years. Of these worst five counties, Robeson easily is the most populous of them. So not only are the rates double the state rate, but there is a lot of deaths — 69 over the last five years. One-third of these deaths are to unintentional injuries — the highest percentage of those being motor vehicle accidents. With the opioid crisis rising, numbers will only worsen.
Finally, the Board of Health honored Dr. Walter Neal with the C.E. Inman Award as a true friend of public health in Robeson County. Dr. Neal has practiced OB/Gyn services for over 30 years and for the past 17 has served the clinic patients in the Heath Department. Recently he agreed to be the medical director for MCH activities here. During his acceptance, he noted how proud he was of the level of care provided within the clinics.
On a personal note, Dr. Neal delivered my son almost 26 years ago. As I recall that night, Duke was playing in the March madness on the West Coast, so it was a late game. Much to the chagrin of my wife, we were paying too much attention to the game and not to her, so she claimed. Her big fear was that something would be wrong with the baby’s ears. When he came into the world, she asked, how are his ears? I said the one he has looks great. Dr. Neal started to chuckle and I said laugh at your own peril, So congratulations Dr. Neal on behalf of the patients, the community and me personally.
Bill Smith is the director of the Robeson County Health Department.