The Ohio Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics (Ohio AAP) is making major strides in reducing the number of infant deaths in the state thanks to an innovative partnership with the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association and the Ohio Children’s Trust Fund.

The Ohio AAP has implemented a comprehensive safe sleep campaign designed to raise awareness and provide education around the American Academy of Pediatrics’ updated safe sleep recommendations released in 2011. One element of this campaign is the “Education and Sleep Environment (EASE) Project,” which helps model appropriate sleep environments for infants in a hospital setting. Six children’s hospitals in Ohio participated in the project’s first wave. Each hospital appointed a team, including physicians, nurses, and administrators, who conducted 10 random audits per week during likely sleep hours. Auditors were looking to see if baby was found sleeping on their back, in a crib, and the crib is empty, with no blankets, toys, etc.

“We know parents are more likely to model actions and behaviors demonstrated by health care providers, rather than simply follow verbal instructions,” says Nick Lashutka, President, Ohio Children’s Hospital Association, in a release. “While babies are not at risk of SIDS in a hospital setting, we recognize the important responsibility health care providers have to teach and model safe sleep practices for parents and caregivers. The EASE Project has provided a great framework to help the hospitals ensure they are fulfilling that responsibility.”

Five thousand audits were completed over one year. The data, just released, shows a 45% increase in patients less than a year old in safe sleep environments and a nearly 30% increase in parent or caregiver reports of receiving safe sleep education during hospital stays.

“The numbers show that this first-of-its-kind collaboration between the Ohio AAP and Ohio’s children’s hospitals can make a huge difference in the lives of infants in our state,” says Melissa Wervey Arnold, executive director of the Ohio AAP. “Teaching and showing parents the right way to put their children to sleep means more children will wake up the next morning thanks to the hard work of the many physicians and health care workers involved.”

The project’s next wave will include several birthing centers in Ohio and is expected to begin June 2015.