Clinton Administration Announces Expanded BTS Campaign

Clinton Administration Announces Expanded Back to Sleep Campaign: Tipper Gore to Lead New Effort

The Clinton Administration announced today that Tipper Gore will lead an expanded public education effort designed to help prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The national Back to Sleep campaign, which has already reached many parents and health professionals with the message that placing babies on their backs to sleep can reduce the risk of SIDS, will now be expanded to target grandparents, babysitters, and day care workers as well.

HHS Secretary Donna E. Shalala also announced that the Gerber Products Company will help to spread the word that babies should be placed on their backs to sleep by placing the Back to Sleep message on its cereal boxes, in mailings to new pa rents, and on its toll-free information number.

Largely as a result of a 1992 American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendation and the increase in awareness produced by the Back to Sleep campaign, SIDS deaths in the United States declined by about 30 percent between 1992 and 1995. Ho wever, many caregivers still place babies on their stomachs to sleep. In announcing her new role, Mrs. Gore emphasized the need to reach Americans who may not have heard about this new recommendation in order to ensure that the message reaching parents a nd other caregivers on infant sleep position is clear and consistent.

"Placing babies on their backs to sleep is one of the most important steps that caregivers can take to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, but too many people still don't know this important, simple message," said Mrs. Gore. "Together, we need to continue to spread the word that placing infants on their backs to sleep can save infant lives."

"Gerber's help will allow the Back to Sleep campaign to reach more families who haven't yet heard that babies should be placed on their backs to sleep," said Secretary Shalala. "We must be vigilant in continuing to spread th is important message, and Gerber's involvement will allow us to do just that."

Mrs. Gore also called on public and private groups to redouble their efforts to reach populations with the highest incidence of SIDS. Mrs. Gore noted that African-American babies are 2.4 times more likely than Caucasian babies to die of SIDS, and Native American babies are 2.8 times more susceptible.

Beginning in June 1997, the Back to Sleep message will appear on the backs of 3 million Gerber cereal boxes. The Gerber Products Company will also include the message in mailings to 2.7 million mothers of newborns. In addition, a message recorded by Mrs. Gore will play on the Gerber toll-free information number, urging parents to place their babies on their backs to sleep and to talk to their doctors for more information on infant sleep position. The message, which will play on the Gerbe r toll-free information number 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, is expected to be heard by about 650,000 callers.

"All told, Gerber's efforts will send the Back to Sleep message into the homes of about 80 percent of all parents with infants in the United States," said Dr. Daniel Vasella, President and Head of the Executive Committee for the N ovartis Corporation, Gerber Products Company's parent corporation. "We are pleased to be able to help spread this critical message."

SIDS is the sudden and unexplained death of an infant under one year of age. SIDS, sometimes known as crib death, strikes nearly 4,000 babies in the United States every year. The causes of SIDS are still unclear, and it is currently impossible t o predict which infants might fall victim to SIDS. Recent studies have identified almost undetectable defects in SIDS infants in a region of the brain that may control sensing of carbon dioxide, breathing, and arousal during sleep.

"Gradually, scientists are identifying the underlying problems that can signal a risk of SIDS," said Secretary Shalala. "But until SIDS is better understood and can be treated, research shows that the simple strategy of placing bab ies on their backs to sleep can help to reduce the risk of SIDS."

In 1992, after reviewing the available evidence, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended that, to reduce the chance of dying from SIDS, healthy babies should be placed on their backs or sides to sleep. In 1996, the AAP revised its re commendation clarifying that placing babies to sleep on their backs has the lowest risk and is preferred.

The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), part of the National Institutes of Health, launched the Back to Sleep campaign in 1994 to amplify the message that back sleeping can reduce the risk of SIDS and save live s. Major partners in the campaign, besides the NICHD, include HHS' Health Resources and Services Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the AAP, the SIDS Alliance, and the Association of SIDS and Infant Mortality Programs.

The recent decline in SIDS deaths reflects a 12 percent drop in the rate between 1993 and 1994, and an 18.5 percent drop between 1994 and 1995, the largest annual declines and the largest

consecutive declines ever observed in the U.S. Further, SIDS dropped in 1994 from the 2nd to the 3rd leading cause of infant mortality, behind congenital anomalies and low birth weight/prematurity.

"The Back to Sleep campaign has made a real inroads into reducing infant deaths from SIDS and in reducing the infant mortality rate overall, but we must continue to spread the message," said Dr. Duane Alexander, Director of the N ICHD.

Since its inception, the Back to Sleep campaign has worked to heighten awareness among parents and health care providers by producing and distributing brochures, posters, print public service announcements, and informational videos urging t hat babies be placed on their backs to sleep. The campaign has also spurred the development of state SIDS campaigns, developed a Back to Sleep internet web site (, and established a toll-free phone number -- 1-800-505-CRIB -- that people can call to order Back to Sleep campaign materials.

Besides spreading the word that placing infants to sleep on their backs can save lives, the Back to Sleep campaign emphasizes several other steps that parents can take to help reduce the risk of SIDS. These include: making sure expectant m others receive early and regular prenatal care; that they not smoke, drink alcohol, or use drugs (unless prescribed by a doctor) during pregnancy; making sure babies sleep on firm surfaces free of fluffy bedding and soft toys or pillows; keeping babies' s urroundings smoke-free; ensuring that babies don't get too warm when sleeping; contacting a baby's doctor or clinic right away when a baby seems sick; ensuring that babies receive their shots on schedule; and breastfeeding.

*** NOTE: Radio public service announcements and actualities from Mrs. Gore on SIDS and the Back to Sleep campaign will be available on the HHS Radio News Hotline from March 20 through April 4, 1997. Radio feeds can be reached by calling (202) 6 90­8317 or (800) 621­2984.

Note: HHS press releases are available on the World Wide Web at:

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