New York Hospitals Seek to Promote Safer Sleep for Infants As Part of Department of Health Initiative

ALBANY, N.Y. (October 15, 2015) - The New York State Department of Health (DOH) has recruited 80 hospitals across the state to participate in a campaign to promote safe sleep practices among infants. The campaign is being spearheaded by the New York State Perinatal Quality Collaborative (NYSPQC), a DOH initiative that aims to provide the best and safest care for women and infants in New York.

Participants will engage all areas of the hospitals where newborns spend time, including the neonatal intensive care units, the well-baby nursery, and step down units. The goal is to increase the number of infants placed in safe sleep environments during hospital stays; increase the documentation of education for caregivers before babies are discharged; and increase to 95% the number of caregivers who report they understand the safe sleep educational messages before leaving the hospital.

"Teaching health care providers and parents alike the proper strategies for placing babies in safe sleep environments is crucial to keeping infants safe while they sleep," said Commissioner of Health Dr. Howard Zucker. "This project will enhance the education around safe sleep, so that parents never have to endure the heartbreak of losing a child to a sleep-related cause."

The ABCs of safe sleep are: having the baby sleep Alone, on his or her Back and in a Crib that's empty and uncluttered by blankets, bumpers or stuffed animals. Other tips include breastfeeding, dressing the infant in a one-piece sleeper, making sure the baby is not too warm and avoiding cigarette smoke exposure.

About 90 babies die every year in New York from sleep-related causes. Although the incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome has fallen dramatically since 1992, when the American Academy of Pediatrics began recommending that all babies sleep on their backs, sleep-related deaths from other causes have gone up. These causes include suffocation, entrapment and asphyxia. Unsafe sleep remains the leading preventable cause of death for healthy infants.

"Approximately half of the infant deaths in New York State each year that OCFS reviews involve unsafe sleep practices," said acting Office of Children and Family Services Commissioner Sheila J. Poole. "These deaths are preventable, which is why we work with partners statewide to educate new parents and caregivers about safe sleep practices and to distribute portable cribs to families in high-need communities so they have a safe place for their baby to sleep."

The NYSPQC project will take place at the same time DOH's Division of Family Health is forging a partnership with eight community-based home visiting organizations. The organizations will visit the homes of new mothers and other caregivers to ensure each newborn sleeps in a safe place that meets the ABC principles, and caregivers are appropriately educated.

A month after the postpartum visit, caregivers will be surveyed to see how they are doing. DOH will share the survey data with the community organizations, who will evaluate hurdles and successes, and brainstorm ideas for best ways to deliver the safe sleep message.

To help spread the word, the Department is simultaneously launching a statewide safe sleep media campaign. Messages about safe sleep will be featured in numerous public places, including convenience stores, laundromats, food courts and bus shelters. The campaign will also use websites, social media and online video ads.

The Department is currently involved in the national Infant Mortality Collaborative Improvement and Innovation Network (IM-CoIIN). As part of that, the Department has chosen to focus on improving statewide infant safe sleep practices to reduce infant mortality.

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