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NICHD and Its Collaborators Launch Expanded Infant Mortality Awareness Campaign

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Safe to Sleep messages address sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) risk as well as other sleep-related causes of infant deaths

In 1994, the NICHD, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and other partners launched the Back to Sleep campaign, to inform parents and caregivers about ways to reduce the risk of SIDS, defined as the sudden, unexplained death of an infant younger than 1 year of age. Initially, the campaign focused on encouraging parents to put infants on their backs to sleep to reduce the risk of SIDS. Since the campaign began, U.S. SIDS rates have dropped by 50% overall and the rate of back sleeping has increased significantly.  In fact    among African Americans, and the rate of back sleeping among infants has tripled.

While the SIDS rate has been declining, the rate of other sleep-related causes of infant death—deaths that are related to where a baby sleeps—has been on the rise in large part because of unrecognized dangers in the sleep environment. Communities are seeing increases in accidental suffocation, strangulation, entrapment—when a baby gets caught between two objects, such as a mattress and a wall, and can't breathe—and other accidental causes of infant death.

To better inform parents and caregivers about these and other issues related to reducing infant mortality, the NICHD and its collaborators launched the Safe to Sleep education campaign. Safe to Sleep builds upon the success of the Back to Sleep campaign and includes messages about reducing the risk of SIDS and of other sleep-related causes of infant death, such as suffocation and entrapment. Safe to Sleep information also addresses some prenatal care and infant care issues as they relate to SIDS.

The NICHD has led federal research efforts to understand SIDS and its causes since the 1970s. Institute-supported research has led to significant advances in our understanding of SIDS and its possible mechanisms. The public education efforts of the NICHD, its partners in the Back to Sleep campaign, and other organizations have also contributed to the 50% reduction in SIDS rates.

However, in the past decade, the number of sleep-related infant deaths has risen sharply. To help address all sleep-related causes of infant death, including SIDS, the AAP released updated safe infant sleep recommendations External Web Site Policy in 2011. These recommendations form the basis for the messages in the new Safe to Sleep materials.

Safe to Sleep Messages and Resources
Safe to Sleep Collaborations
Safe to Sleep Outreach
Safe to Sleep Tradition

Safe to Sleep Messages and Resources

Each year, thousands of babies in the United States die suddenly and unexpectedly. These deaths are called sudden unexpected infant death (SUID). SUID includes all unexpected infant deaths, those with a clear cause, such as an accident, and those from an unknown cause, such as SIDS. In recent years, the rates of SUID from sleep-related causes, those are related to how or where an infant slept, have increased. These types of SUID are accidental and can include suffocation, entrapment (when baby gets caught between two objects, such as a mattress and a wall, and can't breathe), and strangulation (when something presses on or wraps around baby's neck, blocking baby's airway).

In addition to information about ways to reduce the risk for SIDS, the expanded Safe to Sleep campaign messages include ways to improve the safety of the baby's sleep area to reduce the risk of  accidental sleep-related causes of infant death. For example, keeping crib bumpers, toys, stuffed animals, blankets and loose bedding out of the baby's sleep area is one way parents and caregivers can reduce the risk of these accidental sleep-related causes of death.

Safe to Sleep materials are currently available for download through the Safe to Sleep website at http://www.nichd.nih.gov/SIDS. New items include:

A video on the safe infant sleep strategies is now available.


Revised materials aimed at grandparents and health care providers will also be available shortly.

Safe to Sleep Collaborations

The Safe to Sleep campaign not only expands upon the messages of Back to Sleep, but it also expands the collaborations that made Back to Sleep so successful.

Safe to Sleep collaborators include the original Back to Sleep co-sponsors—the AAP, the Maternal and Child Health Bureau of the Health Resources and Services Administration, First Candle, and the Association of SIDS and Infant Mortality Programs—as well as the new collaborators the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Division of Reproductive Health of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These collaborations and other partnerships that are still being created will help Safe to Sleep reach a broader audience with these important safe sleep messages.

The NICHD also has enlisted "spokespersons," called Safe to Sleep Champions, who will help share safe infant sleep messages with the media in their local areas. The Champions, who include infant and family health advocates, community leaders, and pediatricians, will work with local media to draw attention to the issue of infant mortality in areas with the highest rates of SIDS and other sleep-related causes of infant death.

Safe to Sleep Outreach

The expanded Safe to Sleep campaign will also continue outreach focused on diffusing safe infant sleep messages among high-risk groups that began during the Back to Sleep campaign.

Current statistics show that the SIDS rate has declined by approximately 50 percent across all racial/ethnic populations since the Back to Sleep campaign began. Still, a disparity in SIDS rates continues -- among African American infants, rates are twice that of white infants and among AI/AN infants, the rates are three times that of white infants.

The Back to Sleep Campaign has conducted activities focused on reducing SIDS risk in high-risk communities for over a decade.  In 2000, the NICHD and its Back to Sleep partners worked with national African American organizations to design materials about SIDS for African American families and communities. Then In 2006, the NICHD began the Mississippi SIDS African American Outreach Project to expand and improve coordination and delivery of SIDS risk-reduction information to pregnant and parenting women, their families, and other caregivers of infants younger than one year of age in the state of Mississippi. In 2003-2004, the NICHD began working with representatives from AI/AN communities to understand the unique information needs of these communities. In 2009, the NICHD and its AI/AN partners released safe infant sleep materials tailored for AI/AN.

Safe to Sleep will continue and expand these activities to promote safe infant sleep  practices among communities at high risk for SIDS and other sleep-related causes of infant death. As part of the ongoing effort in Mississippi, an NICHD-hosted conference on October 17 will bring together leaders from Jackson State University, the Mississippi Health Department, and other infant health stakeholders to highlight accomplishments of the Mississippi SIDS African American Outreach Project and to discuss strategies to reduce infant mortality across the state.

In another effort in Arkansas, the NICHD is launching a new project that builds on relationships with the Arkansas Department of Health, local community organizations, and other stakeholders to conduct community training programs on safe sleep practices throughout the state. The effort will include opportunities for small and medium-size community organizations to apply for mini-grants to help support these activities.

Safe to Sleep Tradition

Through the Safe to Sleep campaign, the NICHD and its collaborators continue the tradition of utilizing successful strategies and outreach that was established with the Back to Sleep campaign. With new collaborators, champions, and activities, Safe to Sleep will continue its important work of reducing the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related causes of infant death to help save babies' lives.

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Originally posted: October 3, 2012

 

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