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RALEIGH, NC (AP) — North Carolina’s infant mortality rate fell to a historic low last year, thanks in part to a huge reduction in child deaths among black residents.

The state Department of Health and Human Services said Tuesday that the 2010 infant death rate was seven for every 1,000 live births, the lowest in state history.

The most significant decline was among black infants, whose mortality rate dropped nearly 20 percent between 2009 and 2010.

State Health Director Jeff Engel says programs like the Healthy Beginnings initiative contributed to the drop in infant deaths. Engel says the progress is a result of long-term planning and investment in healthy lifestyles for pregnant women and other factors.

Overall, over 122,000 babies were born to North Carolina residents last year, a slight drop from 2009.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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