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New Efforts To Reduce SIDS in Mississippi Underway

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 15 Sep 2011 04:32pm | comments
Evelyn Smith taught members of black churches about SIDS.

Groups around Mississippi are trying new ways to reach out to African-American parents to change how they put babies to sleep. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports it is part of an effort to reduce the number of Mississippi babies that die suddenly before their first birthday.

Mississippi has the highest rate of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and African-American babies are two times more likely to die from SIDS than white babies.

Shavon Artis with the National Institutes of Health says there are public health and cultural reasons why the rates are so much higher in black families.

"There is high rates of smoking. Also there is the practice of placing infants to sleep on his or her stomach. Which is a traditional practice that many in our African-American communities have been taught over the years from their grandparents, their aunties. And what we relaize is that research is telling us that back sleeping is the number one way to reduce SIDS," Artis said.

The institute is funding projects around the state to teach the whole family about proper sleeping habits....because when a baby that normally sleeps on its back is put on its stomach, it is 8 times more likely to die from SIDS.

One of the projects the institute is funding is run by Dr. Eveyln Smith of Drew.

Smith taught members of African-American churches in Drew about SIDS and had them talk to their congregations about putting infants to sleep on their backs.

"One of my premises was all people need someone they can trust. And normally if you are in a congregation you have found someone that can be trusted," Smith said.

Smith is expanding her outreach efforts by visting households around Sunflower County.....showing families proper sleeping habits.

Iretis Mallett is coordinating SIDS outreach at the Boys and Girls Club in Attala County, she saw the pain SIDS caused when her friend lost a baby .

"They kept thinking, 'could I have done something different? Was it my fault? Could I have stayed up all night long and watched my baby?'. It was one of those things where I blame myself situation. And it took quite a while to understand why they lost the baby and also understand that it was no fault to them," Mallet said.

The rate of SIDS in Mississippi has been steadily declining, but in 2009 16 babies died from SIDS....8 of those babies were black.

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Evelyn Smith taught members of black churches about SIDS.


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