Summits Seek to Reduce SIDS Risk in African American Community

In a first-of-its-kind collaboration, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) has joined forces with three national African American Women's organizations in a year-long program to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) among African American infants.

The leadership and members of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, the Women in the NAACP, and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., will work with the NICHD to conduct SIDS risk reduction training and outreach activities in communities around the country. Each organization will hold a regional summit meeting to launch its activity. At the summits, members of the organizations and community leaders will be equipped with educational techniques, strategies, and promotional materials to conduct outreach activities on reducing infants' risk for SIDS.

The National Coalition of 100 Black Women will sponsor the first of the three summits on January 31 and February 1 at the Kellogg Conference Center, Tuskegee University, in Tuskegee, Alabama. The Women of the NAACP will conduct the second summit in Los Angeles, California. on March 14-15. The Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. will sponsor the third summit in Detroit, Michigan on May 30-31.

"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. "We need to work harder to ensure that culturally appropriate messages reach families with infants."

Dr. Maddox will be the keynote speaker at the Tuskeegee summit, which will feature talks by a number of local and state officials, as well as by Jewell Jackson McCabe, the Chair and Founder of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women. Also featured will be speakers from the Women of the NAACP, and the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

"As Black History Month begins, we are coming together to reverse an historical trend that unnecessarily has African American babies at higher risk for SIDS," said Grazell Howard, Esq. Vice President of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women. "We are energized as a community of women to reduce infant mortality and a tremendous racial disparity."

An extensive body of research has shown that placing infants to sleep on their backs reduces their risk of SIDS. Based on this evidence from the U.S. and abroad, 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 the 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 http:// (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 these 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 for sleep

Along with urging parents and caregivers to place infants on their backs to sleep-even at naptime-the materials also list a number of ways for reducing the risk of SIDS. These include not smoking around the baby, placing infants on a firm mattress, removing soft, fluffy, and loose be.

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 part 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

top of pageBACK TO TOP