New Allegheny County, Pa., effort taps religious leaders to educate blacks on SIDS risks

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The Allegheny County, Pa., Health Department and Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh on Wednesday launched a collaborative effort that aims to educate blacks about safe sleep practices for infants and reduce infant deaths among blacks, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

The county has a high rate of infant deaths among blacks, despite years of ongoing efforts to address the issue, according to the Post-Gazette.

There were 68 infant deaths in the county between 2001 and 2006, of which 43 were among blacks, making infant deaths 17 times higher among blacks than the rest of the county population, the Post-Gazette reports (Templeton, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/1). Ninety-seven percent of the county's 68 infant deaths from 2001-2006 involved an "unacceptable sleeping environment," according to the health department.

In response, the hospital and the health department have created the Infant Safe Sleep Church Outreach Committee, which will educate black clergy members on reducing the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and encourage them to include the information in sermons and discussion with the community. The education focuses on encouraging mothers to establish safe sleeping environments for infants, including placing infants on their backs on firm sleeping surfaces in a smoke-free environment.

Brenda Gregg, senior pastor of Greater Allen AME Church and Children's Hospital's director of community outreach and community health services, said, "The vast majority of these deaths are entirely preventable through better education" (Templeton, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/2). She added, "The church is already doing a lot of health ministry. And I think we can add this message to what we're already doing" (Vellucci, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 10/2).


Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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