by David Douglas
Last Updated: 2008-11-21 12:59:05 -0400 (Reuters Health)

The incidence of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) in California fell significantly in the 1990s but has held steady since 2002, researchers report in the November issue of the Journal of Pediatrics.

Dr. Ruey-Kang R. Chang of Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, Torrance, California, and colleagues note that the decline in SIDS deaths in their state began even before the launch of the national "Back to Sleep" educational effort in 1994.

The investigators identified 6,303 SIDS cases between 1989 and 2004. The overall incidence fell from 2.13 per thousand births in 1989, to 0.31 per thousand births from 2002 to 2004.

The incidence was highest in blacks and lowest in Asian/Pacific Islanders. Over time, seasonal variations in deaths became less pronounced.

However, the peak age at death from SIDS moved from 2 months to 3 months, and the weekday-to-weekend occurrence ratio rose from 1.07 in the earliest era to 1.28 in the most recent.

"Importantly, a significant proportion of SIDS cases occur at childcare settings, which might contribute to the higher SIDS incidence on weekdays," the authors write.

"Clinicians and policy makers should be aware of these changes," Dr. Chang told Reuters Health, "and more research effort is needed to identify public health strategies that can further prevent SIDS."