A few years ago, I attended a birthday party unlike any that I have ever been to before. It was a bittersweet memorial for a boy, Raymond, who would have turned 3 years old. The mom and dad visited the cemetery and then invited close friends and family over for cake and ice cream. The boy’s grandmother said a prayer. The family lit candles around Raymond’s picture and lit the cake and sang ‘Happy Birthday.’
Of course Raymond wasn’t there. His very short life taught me, first hand, about a troubling statistic that most people only read about: African American babies are more than twice as likely as whites to die of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Years ago, I remember my mom talking about “crib death.” Now, known as “SIDS,” it is the sudden death of an apparently healthy baby, usually occurring during sleep. The Center for Disease Control statistics highlight the alarming racial disparities among SIDS deaths. (Read more SIDS statistics from the CDC here)
Though SIDS is still the number one cause of death in infants in the United States, its occurrence has declined nationally since 1994, thanks in great part to the national Back to Sleep campaign. The Back to Sleep campaign is recognized as the most successful public health campaign in our nation’s history. While this progress is tremendous, SIDS rates remain significantly higher among African American and low-income populations.
This is unacceptable. We know how to lower these rates, but the messages haven’t successfully reached these most vulnerable populations.
The message is simple:
1. Put a Sleeping Baby on His Back (side and tummy positions are not safe)
2. Crib, Firm Mattress, No Soft Toys or Bedding
3. Don’t Smoke Around Your Baby
4. Keep Your Sleeping Baby in Your Room, but Not in Your Bed
This is why K.I.D.S. is announcing a new targeted approach to keeping low-income and African American babies alive, “K.I.D.S. Safe Sleep Centers.”
Starting this year, before any K.I.D.S. program will give out any baby items or diapers, families across the board will receive educational materials and outreach practices to target the greatest risk group for SIDS: African American and low-income families. Our corporate partner in this important initiative is Delta Children’s Products, which has committed to donating its safety-approved cribs to parents who attend the inaugural Sleep Center presentations at our community partner locations as we take our campaign across the country.
Being a father gives me the passion to spread the word, but being president of K.I.D.S. gives me a platform to make a difference. Our partner charity in this initiative, First Candle, has created culturally sensitive materials and programs designed to reach the African American community. These materials will be given out consistently to turn awareness into knowledge and knowledge into life saving habits. (Read more about First Candle here.)
This targeted SIDS education programs will be based on the newly launched nationwide “Safe to Sleep”campaign. Central to that campaign is a push to ensure that every parent and caregiver understands the importance of safe sleep in preventing infant deaths. Other elements that reduce the risk of SIDS include breastfeeding; quitting smoking while pregnant or while near the baby; never falling asleep with a baby on an adult bed, couch or chair ; removing all bedding, pillows and stuffed animals from cribs; and taking care to not overdress or overheat the infant.
When my friend’s baby, Raymond, died a few years ago, I didn’t know about SIDS. No one had forewarned my friends about the possibility of this happening, either. As an African American family, no one told them that they were at a greater risk.
I didn’t know what to do about it then, but I know what to do about it now.
The Safe Sleep Center concept is simple:
- we will inform all of our corporate donors of baby gear and diapers that Safe Sleep messages will be given along with their merchandise donation;
- we will monitor our programs around the country that every baby item given to a low-income family, also has safe sleep messages attached;
- we will make sure that if a family is African American or if a family is poor, and they are in need of a baby gear donation from K.I.D.S., they will get more than some merchandise, they will get the education they need to keep that baby alive.
If we gave out the info just once, it might raise awareness. But K.I.D.S. is not going to stop there. With every single baby product merchandise donation, from cribs to high chairs, to strollers to car seats to bottles to blankets to baby apparel to diapers, the message will be given again and again and again. That information will turn into knowledge. That knowledge will turn into a habit. And that habit will keep more babies alive.
Posted in | No Comments »