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Data Indicates Link Between Child Deaths and Parent Access to Paid Leave

North Carolina will work with NC Child to take steps toward studying links to paid leave and a reduction in child mortality. (Stephan Hochhause/
North Carolina will work with NC Child to take steps toward studying links to paid leave and a reduction in child mortality. (Stephan Hochhause/
December 15, 2016

RALEIGH, N.C. — Access to paid leave for North Carolina workers could impact more than just a parent's quality of life. A possible link between child mortality and access to child care and paid leave is prompting the state to take a closer look.

This week, the State Fatality Prevention Team approved the creation of a committee co-led by NC Child to take the first steps toward studying paid leave insurance programs. Michelle Hughes, executive director at NC Child, said the decision comes after medical professionals noticed something while reviewing 40 child deaths last year.

"They noticed there seems to be a link between the lack of access to safe, quality child care and child deaths,” Hughes said. “And paid family leave is a huge solution for many families."

The committee is asked to report back by October of 2017 on how they think a study of paid family leave insurance programs should be developed.

This year, Durham, Wake County and Greensboro enacted paid family leave policies for public employees. According to NC Families Care, only 11 percent of private-sector workers in the southeast have access to paid leave.

Two-thirds of North Carolina families with children have all parents in the workforce. Hughes said there is every indication that paid leave could decrease child mortality. But she and her peers are looking forward to collecting the data.

"So as we gather this data and this research, I think, we will build potentially a strong case for paid family leave,” Hughes said. “But we're waiting to see what the data looks like."

According to a 2011 study of 141 countries by the National Institutes of Health, paid parental leave could reduce infant mortality by as much as 10 percent. Possible connections between time off for new parents and child mortality include reduced parent frustration and increased likelihood of regular checkups and sick visits as parents are able to seek out medical care during their work day.

Stephanie Carson/Scott Herron, Public News Service - NC