Background: In the US, a higher incidence of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and a slower decline in the incidence of SIDS has been found among blacks when compared with white infants. The continued racial disparity in SIDS is thought to be attributable to lack of compliance with SIDS risk reduction recommendations.
Objectives: To better understand the disparities in SIDS risk reduction behaviors, we sought to study compliance and information sources related to SIDS among primarily black communities in a city with a high SIDS incidence rate before and after a targeted educational campaign.
Design: Pre- and post-SIDS Risk Reduction Education Program telephone surveys were performed in targeted Chicago communities with at least 86% blacks. Data collection for Survey 1 was from September 22 to November 4, 1999. Data collection for Survey 2 was from November 17, 2001, to January 12, 2002, 24 months after the aggressive implementation of a comprehensive, ethnically sensitive risk reduction program.
Results: Survey 1 analyzed data from 480 mothers with an infant <12 months of age (327 black, 66 white, and 87 Hispanic) and Survey 2 had 472 mothers (305 black, 77 white, and 90 Hispanic). The incidence of nighttime prone sleeping at Survey 1 was 25% among black respondents, 17% in whites, and 12% in Hispanics and decreased (but not significantly) among all groups by Survey 2. Overall, in Survey 2 compared with Survey 1, fewer mothers reported putting their infants on an adult bed, sofa, or cot both during the day and at night, with the biggest change seen in black mothers for daytime naps. Despite the same educational initiative, blacks increased the use of pillows, stuffed toys, and soft bedding in the sleep environment as compared with whites. More mothers in Survey 2 than in Survey 1 said that they noticed their infants sleeping on their back during the newborn hospitalization. Significantly more black and white mothers in Survey 2 compared with Survey 1 reported that a doctor or nurse had told them what the best position was for putting their infants to sleep, and all 3 groups said that the health care providers indicated that placing the infant on its back was the best sleep position. In examining the relationship between information sources and SIDS risk behaviors, among all groups observation of sleep position in hospital had no effect on behavior after newborn discharge; however, specific instruction by a nurse or doctor in the hospital about how to properly place the infant for sleep influenced behavior after the mother left the hospital.
Conclusions: The Surveys indicate the greatest impact of the SIDS risk factor educational initiative targeted at black communities was changing behaviors regarding safe sleep locations by reducing the incidence of infants placed for nighttime and daytime sleep in adult beds, sofas, or cots. Although these data indicate considerable progress as a result of the targeted educational initiative, our findings suggest that cultural explanations for specific infant care practices must be more clearly understood to close the gap between SIDS risk factor compliance and apparent knowledge about SIDS risk factors.