WDHB gets behind Friday 4 December Safe Sleep Day

30 November 2015
Seventeen of the 22 babies living in the Whanganui and MidCentral District Health Board (DHB) area who died of Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI) between 2008-2012 were Māori – nine of them Whanganui DHB district babies and 13, babies living in the MidCentral DHB district.
To address these tragic statistics, ‘Safe Sleep’ was the focus of the Mokopuna Ora seminar held in Whanganui last week for clinicians, invited guests and members of the public.
The WDHB’s Māori Health Plan states that reducing the SUDI rates for the Whanganui community is an ongoing priority for 2015/16. A comprehensive holistic strategy is in place and the Māori Health directorate has made it clear it wants to see collaborative approaches put in place to reduce SUDI rates and address SUDI risk factors for Māori. 
The plan also states that Māori Health will endeavour to wrap services around at-risk pregnant Māori women and their whānau to reduce the risk of SUDI. This effort includes linking women and their whānau with the:
  • the antenatal parenting and education programme
  • the safe sleep programme
  • staff trained to promote safe sleep
  • social media messages around safe sleep
  • working towards reducing smoking in Māori wahine.
Speaking on the ‘eve’ of Safe Sleep Day on Friday 4 December, WDHB head paediatrician Dr David Montgomery says while the steps needed to reduce the rates of SUDI are well understood by health professionals, innovative thinking is needed in order to translate that knowledge into a change in practice by parents and whānau. 
“Our reviews of SUDI cases have shown that in virtually all cases, the mothers were given the correct information regarding safe sleeping, breastfeeding, and smoking cessation,” Dr Montgomery says. “However, in many cases, simply giving advice, or even giving an item such as a Pepi-Pod, did not prevent the baby sleeping in an unsafe environment, and dying as a consequence.
“The real challenge ahead of us is to find ways to engage effectively with whānau and the broader community in order to bring about actual changes in parenting behaviour, which are needed to further reduce the rates of SUDI. Health professionals need a better understanding of how to influence attitudes and behaviour in a positive way. A health professional telling a parent what to do does not always have the intended effect. There are many other influences which affect the decisions a parent will make. As health professionals, we need to find ways to access those other influences, in order to foster safer environments for our infants, and reduce the number of deaths.
“The death of any child is heart-breaking, and what’s even more tragic, is that many of these deaths could have been prevented,” Dr Montgomery says.