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Health, Science & Tech

Doctors Say Awareness Can Lower Infant Mortality Rate

Medical professionals and public officials are making their annual effort to raise awareness of the best ways to ensure infants' safety while they sleep.

Improper sleeping conditions put babies at risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Doctors advise parents and other caregivers to place infants alone, on their backs, in an unadorned crib to avoid suffocation.

"This really happens," said Dr. Michael Consuelos, with the Hospital and Health System Association of Pennsylvania. "As a health care professional, it's our worst nightmare ... to see an infant die from a completely preventable process."

Dr. Michael Goodstein, who heads York County's Cribs for Kids programs, cited this year's state Child Death Review, using data from 2011. It showed that the infant mortality rate declined, with 81 babies dying from sleep-related conditions. Most of those infants were not sleeping alone or in a crib. And the report shows a racial disparity, with African American babies more likely to die than Caucasian babies as a result of sleep-related conditions.

"So remember your ABCs — alone, on the back, in the crib," said Goodstein.

A state House resolution designates November as "Infant Safe Sleep Month" in the commonwealth. Sponsoring Rep. Garthe Everett (R-Lycoming) admits it's a publicity stunt, but insists it's a worthy one.

"It's not high-tech, it's not complicated," Everett said. "It's just about education and getting the word out."