Gaston County Tops Region in Infant Deaths
New data released today shows Gaston County's infant mortality rate decreased slightly last year but continues to be the highest in the Charlotte region. The difference in infant death rates between Gaston and Mecklenburg Counties is striking. Last year 11 out of a thousand babies in Gaston County died in their first year of life compared. That's nearly double Mecklenburg County's rate. Gaston County Health Director Colleen Bridger believes Mecklenburg County's advantage is its urban atmosphere which attracts "kind of a younger population, a more progressive population, contrasted with Gaston County where people have stayed who they are, where they are for the last 200 years." In general, Bridger says born-and-bred Gaston County residents seem to place less value on women's health. The county ranks consistently high in chronic conditions like obesity and heart disease and in the number of women who smoke during and after pregnancy. Bridger says the Gaston County Health Department is working on those problems with a 50-thousand dollar grant from the state.