The Health Quality & Safety Commission has written to district health boards asking them to prioritise the prevention of Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI).

The Commission’s Chair, Professor Alan Merry, and the Chair of the Child & Youth Mortality Review Committee (CYMRC), Dr Nick Baker, say in the letter that 60 infants die of SUDI each year in New Zealand and many of the deaths are preventable.

“New Zealand has the highest rate of death from SUDI among industrialised countries, with 1.1 deaths per 1000 live births occurring here, while the rate for Maori is 2.3 deaths per 1000 live births.

“A significant number happen as a result of suffocation in the place of sleep.   Having safe infant sleeping policies in place, coupled with the efforts underway to reduce maternal smoking, will help to prevent infant deaths.”

Professor Merry and Dr Baker say a number of DHBs have already introduced safe infant sleeping policies which aim to ensure:  

  • staff who support families caring for babies receive mandatory training about SUDI prevention and ways of communicating risks to families
  • the modelling of safe sleeping practices for all infants within DHB facilities
  • safe sleeping arrangements are available for all infants after they are discharged home
  • families are educated about the hazards that arise in some sleeping situations
  • parents are advised about safe strategies for night feeds and settling of infants.

Professor Merry and Dr Baker thanked DHBs for the efforts they are already making to prevent SUDI.

The full text of their letter can be read here.

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