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Detroit Summit to Bring African American Women Together to Reduce SIDS Risk

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May 29, 2003

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. (AKA), and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) will sponsor a regional summit meeting May 30-31 in Detroit as part of a national campaign to reduce Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in African American communities. The SIDS rate for African American babies has declined significantly in recent years but remains more than twice that of white infants.

AKA and the NICHD have joined forces with the Women in the NAACP and the National Coalition of 100 Black Women in a unique, year long collaboration called Partnerships for Reducing the Risk of SIDS in African American Communities. This project seeks to eliminate the racial disparity in SIDS rates by stressing the need to place infants on their backs for sleep to reduce the risk of SIDS.

"We are coming together to change a historical pattern of the SIDS rate among African American infants, which is twice that of white infants," said Linda White, National President of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. "We have made great progress over the last decade of cutting the SIDS rate for African American infants by almost 50 percent. But we need an even greater effort. We are committed to sharing the good news about how to reduce the risk of SIDS in our communities."

The Detroit SIDS summit, to be held at the Hyatt Regency Dearborn, Fairlane Town Center, in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn, Michigan, is the last of three regional summits across the country designed to raise awareness of SIDS, and conduct SIDS risk reduction training. The summit will equip attendees with strategies and materials to conduct outreach activities in African American communities. Sessions will focus on ways that health care professionals, parents and caregivers, community leaders, and policymakers can lead workshops in their communities on reducing SIDS risk factors among African Americans.

"The research points in one direction: unless there is a medical reason not to, infants should be placed to sleep on their backs to help reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome," said Yvonne T. Maddox, Ph.D., Deputy Director of the NICHD, who has forged the collaboration with the three African American organizations. "This year we are seeing women across the nation counseling families on ways they can help reduce the risk of SIDS in African American babies."

Nathan Stinson, Jr., Ph.D., M.D., M.P.H., the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health, will be the keynote speaker at the Detroit summit, which will feature speakers from Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Women of the NAACP, and the National Coalition of 100 Black Women.

An extensive body of research has shown that placing infants to sleep on their backs reduces their risk of SIDS. Based on this evidence, the NICHD formed a coalition of national organizations to launch a public awareness campaign called Back to Sleep in 1994. Along with NICHD, the coalition consisted of the Health Resources and Services Administration, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Association of SIDS and Infant Mortality Programs (formerly the Association of SIDS Program Professionals), and First Candle/SIDS Alliance. At that time, the SIDS rates for African Americans were double those for Caucasians. Since the start of the campaign in 1994, the SIDS rates for both groups have declined by about 50 percent, but the disparity still remains. (See chart at (PDF - 19 KB)).

To help eliminate this disparity, the NICHD joined with the non-profit National Black Child Development Institute in 1999 to reduce SIDS among African American infants. That initial collaboration has spawned several activities, including the partnership with the women's organizations and the regional summits. More information about this outreach program is available on the NICHD Web site at (

The participants attending the summit will receive briefings on how to use the Resource Kit for Reducing the Risk of SIDS in African American Communities. The Kit contains culturally appropriate materials such as fact sheets, brochures, magnets, a video and a leader's guide. The materials list a number of ways to reduce the risk of SIDS:

  • Placing infants to sleep on their backs-even at naptime
  • Not smoking around infants
  • Not smoking if you're pregnant
  • Placing infants on a firm mattress
  • Removing soft, fluffy bedding and stuffed toys from infants' sleep area
  • Keeping blankets and other coverings away from the infants' nose and mouth
  • Not putting too many layers of clothing or blankets on infants
  • Making sure everyone who cares for an infant knows that infants should be placed on their backs to sleep

After attending the summit, the participants will lead discussion groups in various community settings on ways to reduce the risk of SIDS. The Kit and other NICHD publications, as well as information about the Institute, are available from the NICHD Web site, or free of charge from the NICHD Information Resource Center, 1-800-370-2943; e-mail


The NICHD is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the biomedical research arm of the federal government. NIH is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The NICHD sponsors research on development, before and after birth; maternal, child, and family health; reproductive biology and population issues; and medical rehabilitation. NICHD publications, as well as information about the Institute, are available from the NICHD Web site,, or from the NICHD Information Resource Center, 1-800-370-2943; e-mail

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