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National Institute of Child
Health and Human Development

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, March 13, 2003
CONTACT:
Bob Bock or
Marianne Glass Duffy
(301) 496-5133

L.A. Summit Seeks to Reduce SIDS in Western U.S. African American Communities

The Women in the NAACP (WIN) and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development have joined forces with two national African American women's organizations to reduce Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in the African American community. African American babies are twice as likely to die of SIDS as white babies.

Members of WIN attending the summit will conduct SIDS awareness programs throughout the year in schools, churches, workplaces, and community settings to increase understanding of the importance of placing infants on their backs to sleep to reduce the risk of SIDS.

WIN and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) will sponsor a regional summit meeting March 14-15 in Los Angeles to raise awareness of the long-running Back to Sleep campaign — based on continuing research that supports placing infants on their backs to sleep to reduce the risk of SIDS. The Los Angeles SIDS summit will be held at the Hyatt Regency at Macy's Plaza, 711 South Hope Street, and will equip attendees with educational techniques, strategies, and promotional materials to conduct outreach activities in the African American community. Sessions will focus on educating health care professionals, caregivers, community leaders, and policymakers on how to reduce SIDS among African Americans.

"The latest research — much of it conducted in Southern California — reinforces the importance of the Back to Sleep campaign," said Yvonne T. Maddox, Ph.D., deputy director of the NICHD. "The research points in one direction: unless there is a medical reason not to, infants should be placed on their backs to sleep, in order to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The summit is an opportunity for us to share this information with a network of community leaders who will help us end a historical trend that unnecessarily has African American infants at higher risk of SIDS."

The NICHD recently announced the results of a study conducted in 11 counties in Northern and Southern California that showed that infants accustomed to sleeping on their backs are at an increased risk of SIDS if they are placed — even once — on their stomachs or sides to sleep. The study, conducted by Kaiser Permanente and supported by the NICHD, is the first to study the relationship between infant sleeping position and SIDS in a racially diverse U.S. population. The research appears in the current issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology, found that if infants typically placed to sleep on their backs were then placed on their stomachs or sides, their SIDS risk increased to seven to eight times that of infants always placed to sleep on their backs.

"Every night and every nap time count," Dr. Maddox said. "Parents and caregivers should place their babies on their backs every time they go to sleep." The researchers also found that infants last placed to sleep on their sides were twice as likely to die of SIDS as infants last placed on their backs.

"We now have research done here in the Los Angeles area confirming that African Americans must know and heed the message of the Back to Sleep campaign," said Thelma T. Daley, Ph.D., National Director, WIN. "We are committed to helping educate the parents, grandparents, and other caregivers in our community about SIDS. Everyone who cares for our babies needs to know that it is essential to put them to sleep on their backs — always!"

The leadership and members of the Women in the NAACP, the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., are working with the NICHD to conduct SIDS risk reduction training and outreach activities in a series of regional summits across the country. The next summit will be held May 30-31 in Detroit in partnership with the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. The National Coalition of 100 Black Women co-sponsored the first summit in Tuskegee Alabama.

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 the 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://www.nichd.nih.gov/sids/sidsrates.pdf).

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 (http://www.nichd.nih.gov/sids).

The participants attending the summit will attend 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. These 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 the infant's sleep area

  • Keeping blankets and other coverings away from the infant's 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, http://www.nichd.nih.gov or free of charge from the NICHD Information Resource Center, 1-800-370-2943; e-mail NICHDClearinghouse@mail.nih.gov.

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, http://www.nichd.nih.gov, or from the NICHD Information Resource Center, 1-800-370-2943; e-mail NICHDClearinghouse@mail.nih.gov.


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