Community Seeks to Raise Awareness on Baby Health and Safety Issues

Jun. 29, 2011

A coalition of Monroe County health organizations is launching a new initiative to address four key infant health and safety issues and is encouraging physicians to raise these topics with parents before their baby is born. 
This initiative integrates messages about breastfeeding, car seat safety, secondhand smoke, and safe sleeping practices, topics that have traditionally been left to pediatricians to discuss with parents and are therefore often only addressed after the baby is born. However, it is now recognized that these discussions need to be initiated before delivery by providers who care for expectant mothers – typically obstetricians and midwives – and that this outreach needs to extend to those serving lower income communities where safety and health issues for newborns are more pronounced. 
 “Obstetricians have a vital role to play in preparing families for the birth of a new baby including educating expecting parents about issues important to the future health and safety of their child,” said Andrew Doniger, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Monroe County Department of Public Health.   
The effort brings together the Monroe County Department of Public Health, the University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester General Hospital, the Perinatal Network of Monroe County, the regional branch of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the Rochester Pediatric Society, Referral and Evaluation Service for Abused Children (REACH) and Bivona Child Advocacy Center.
The coalition is providing brochures titled “Keeping Your Baby Healthy and Safe” to all obstetrician, family medicine and pediatric practices in Monroe County. The goal is to ensure that this information is not only distributed to all expecting mothers, but that physicians will also take the time to talk about these issues directly with their patients. 
While the coalition was sparked into action by a recent trend in preventable infant sleeping deaths, the partners also decided to address other key health and safety issues:
·         Breastfeeding: Breastfeeding provides infants with numerous health benefits. Antibodies in breast milk protect infants from numerous infections and illness and breastfed babies are less likely to develop asthma, die from SIDS, and become obese. Mothers who breastfeed recover more quickly after childbirth and are less likely to get breast or ovarian cancer later in life. Despite these benefits, it is estimated that after 6 months, only 43 percent of children are getting any breast milk and the number drops significantly from that point forward. 
·         Safe Sleep: Between 2006 and 2010, 42 infants died in Monroe County as a result of unsafe sleeping habits including sleeping with a parent or suffocation on loose bedding. Sleeping deaths can be prevented though the use of safety-approved cribs and proper sleeping position, the removal of loose items from the crib, avoiding the use of wedges, and prohibiting co-sleeping with adults or sibling.
·         Car Seat Safety: Motor vehicle injuries are the leading causes of death and injury among children in the U.S. However, the proper use of approved child safety seats is estimated to reduce the risk of death for infants by 71 percent and 54 percent for toddlers. 
·         Secondhand Smoke: An estimated 60 percent of children between 3 and 11 years old are exposed to secondhand smoke. Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of secondhand smoke because of their developmental stage and higher breathing rates. Exposure can cause asthma, increases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, increased risk for pneumonia, bronchitis, and other infections. 
The “Keeping Your Baby Healthy and Safe” brochure is available online. The brochure was developed with funding from the National Institutes of Health and is being provided to obstetrical, family medicine, and pediatric practices free of charge thanks to support from the Perinatal Network of Monroe County.