As part of the agency’s priority to reduce infant mortality, the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) today announced the launch of a statewide awareness campaign to help reduce the number of Ohio babies who die in unsafe sleep environments. Three Ohio babies die in unsafe sleep environments each week, with 819 infant deaths from 2007 to 2011.

The goal of the infant safe sleep campaign is to educate mothers, fathers, and grandparents in high-rate infant mortality areas of Ohio on the importance of putting their babies to sleep using the ABCs of safe sleep: Alone. On Their Back. In a Crib.

“Reducing infant deaths is a top priority of the state health agency and many of our partners,” says ODH interim director, Lance Himes, in a release. “Our comprehensive outreach efforts are designed to educate parents and other caregivers on simple steps they can take to save precious lives.”

Sleep-related infant deaths include sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), accidental suffocation in sleep environments, and undetermined causes. Sleep-related deaths are the leading cause of death between 1 month and 1 year of age. All infants in unsafe sleep environments such as those sharing an adult bed are at risk. Providing a clear consistent message encouraging all families to always place their babies to sleep alone, on their back in a safe environment, is an important step in reducing infant mortality in Ohio.

Parents and caregivers can reduce the risk of these sudden, unexpected deaths by following the ABCs of safe sleep.

The campaign will use multilayered mediums to reach the target audiences in high-risk areas, including billboards, cable, transit, Internet, and radio. A new safe sleep website, with educational materials such as a PSA, poster, brochure, and flyer, shows how to provide a safe sleep environment so that parents and caregivers can reduce the risk of sleep-related infant death. The campaign and messaging were developed following input received from 12 focus groups with Ohio parents around the state. ODH also plans to expand access to safe sleep environments by supporting Cribs for Kids sites in high-risk areas of Ohio.

Ohio hospitals also have a campaign running to promote safe sleep. Since the “Safe Sleep is Good4Baby” campaign by the Ohio Hospital Association (OHA) launched on April 1, more than a dozen Ohio hospitals have signed on to participate by designating an internal safe sleep champion and completing a baseline survey. This statewide initiative supports Ohio hospitals’ efforts to reduce the infant mortality rate.

Ohio has one of the worst infant mortality rates in the nation, ranked 47th in 2010 and in 2012, and had an infant mortality rate of 7.6 per 1,000 births. To help align and coordinate Ohio hospitals’ efforts to promote safe sleep practices, OHA’s campaign seeks to take advantage of hospitals’ interactions with new parents and newborn caregivers to offer consistent and accurate messages about safe sleep environments and provide necessary support to reverse this trend. Participating hospitals will focus on three areas:

  • Modeling Safe Sleep Practices
  • Counseling New Parents and Families
  • Advocating and Educating the Community

To see the growing list of participating hospitals and sign on to participate, visit the website.