More Than Half of SIDS Deaths May Be Preventable
From The National Institutes of Health
Saying that more than 50 percent of Sudden Infant Death
Syndrome (SIDS) mortality may be preventable if babies are placed to
sleep on their sides or backs, HHS Secretary Donna E. Shalala today
announced that deaths due to SIDS fell 30 percent between 1992 and
1995. She said the reduction in SIDS deaths has contributed
significantly to an historic low infant mortality rate in the United
Secretary Shalala credited the public-private 'Back to Sleep'
campaign with bringing about the improvement in SIDS mortality, and
she said all parents need to hear the message: "Babies should be
placed to sleep on their sides or on their backs, but not on their
Shalala announced that SIDS deaths declined from 4,891 in 1992
to 3,279 in 1995, according to preliminary HHS data. This includes
a 12 percent drop in 1994 and an 18.5 percent drop in 1995, the
largest annual declines ever observed in the U.S. and the only large
declines observed in two consecutive years. Further, SIDS has
dropped from 2nd to 3rd leading cause of infant mortality, behind
both low birth weight and congenital anomalies.
The SIDS decline also accounted for about one-third of the
total drop in infant mortality for the country in 1995. Infant
mortality declined 6 percent in that year, to an all-time low rate
for the U.S. of 7.5 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, according
to data released by HHS last week.
"This is a real cause for celebration. Because of our success
in reducing SIDS, there were some 1,600 fewer deaths in 1995 than in
1992," Secretary Shalala said. "That is a very rapid improvement,
and there's every reason to believe that the 'Back to Sleep'
campaign has made the difference."
The 'Back to Sleep' campaign recommends that babies be placed
on their backs or sides to sleep, which significantly reduces the
risk of SIDS. This recommendation, made by the American Academy of
Pediatrics in 1992, is the backbone of the HHS campaign, initiated
in 1994 by the National Institute of Child Health and Human
Development, one of the National Institutes of Health.
While 70 percent of infants were stomach sleeping in 1992, only
29 percent were doing so in 1995, according to Duane Alexander, M.D.,
director of the NICHD. "We believe that if the 'Back to Sleep'
campaign succeeds in reaching its goal of less than 10 percent
stomach sleeping, we can reduce SIDS deaths by more than 50
percent," Dr. Alexander said.
The 'Back to Sleep' campaign is sponsored by a coalition of
federal agencies including NICHD and HHS' Health Resources and
Services Administration, along with the AAP, the SIDS Alliance, and
the Association of SIDS Program Professionals.
Prior to the campaign, approximately 5,000 to 6,000 infants
died unexpected and unexplained SIDS deaths in the U.S. each year,
making it the leading cause of death from 1 month to 1 year of age.
Recent NICHD-sponsored studies have identified defects in the brain
regions of SIDS infants that control breathing. "However, until the
physiology is well understood and treatments are developed, this
simple, cost-effective message of back-sleeping will save many
lives," Dr. Alexander said.
"It's important for every new parent and every caretaker of
infants to understand this message," Secretary Shalala said. "This
is an effort we can all make to help save thousands of babies who
may be susceptible to SIDS."
NICHD makes 'Back to Sleep' materials available via a 'Back to
Sleep' home page on the Internet World Wide Web.
NICHD also distributes free publications on reducing the risk
of SIDS, including a brochure for parents, a simplified-language
brochure in both English and Spanish, and a brochure for healthcare
professionals. Materials can be ordered by phone from 1-800-505-
CRIB, or from NICHD/Back to Sleep, 31 Center Drive, MSC2425, Room
2A32, Bethesda, Md. 20892-2425.
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