Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the leading cause of death among infants one month to one year of age, taking the lives of about 2,500 children each year in the United States. An additional 3,500 infants die each year from other causes of sudden and unexpected infant death (SUID), such as suffocation.
Although the rate of SIDS has decreased by more than 50 percent in the United States since the introduction of the Back to Sleep campaign, racial and economic disparities remain. African-Americans at all socioeconomic levels experience SIDS and SUID at two to three times the rate of the general population.
In Washington, DC, the infant mortality rate is 13.6 per 1,000 live births, one of the worst in the nation, and almost double the national rate of 6.9 per 1,000 live births. In the past several years, more than 50 percent of sudden unexpected infant deaths in the city have occurred while infants were sleeping with others on the same sleep surface, and more than 80 percent occurred while infants were sleeping on adult beds or sofas.
Rachel Y. Moon, MD, leads the Center for Clinical and Community Research’s efforts to prevent SIDS and SUID in high-risk populations. She leads the SIDS Outreach Project, which has both outreach/advocacy and research components. The Project provides SIDS and SUID risk reduction information to those providing care for infants at high risk, specifically low-income African-American parents and child care providers.
Education is provided in small group sessions to low-income families, adolescent parents, and child care providers in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area. The project works collaboratively with governmental and non-governmental agencies, including the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program, the Early Care and Education Administration, Department of Human Services, Washington, DC, (the licensing agency for child care providers), and the District of Columbia Public Schools and Public Charter Schools. The project’s educational interventions have been evaluated and found to be effective in improving knowledge and changing behavior with regard to SIDS and SUID risks.
The project also actively conducts clinical research pertaining to SIDS and SIDS risk factors in high-risk populations. The team has performed studies on:
- sleep position and motor development
- determinants of sleep position in urban populations
- physician beliefs and practices
- SIDS and SIDS risk factors in infants attending child care
- SIDS-relevant regulations in child care
- the effectiveness of educational interventions among low-income families and child care providers
Our current research projects include a mixed-model study (using quantitative and qualitative techniques) investigating influences that affect parental decisions about their infant's sleep, an evaluation of the impact of a national crib distribution program on infant mortality, and a secondary data analysis investigating the interplay between bedsharing and other risk factors for SIDS in African-American infants.