The Monroe County Medical Examiner’s Office recently reported that it investigated three infant fatalities occurring in unsafe sleep environments in 2016, an improvement from nine in 2015.

The final rulings and statistics will not be released until September. The information was shared by Sue VanStrydonck, co-chairman of the Baby Safe Sleep Coalition, at its annual end-of-the-year breakfast.

“Three is still too many, although that number is certainly less than last year’s nine and our yearly average of 10,” she said. “We are grateful for the apparent decline in these preventable deaths, and are encouraged that our efforts and joint programs with area hospitals, health professionals and agencies appear to be gaining ground.”

The Coalition’s goal is to eliminate preventable infant fatalities caused by unsafe sleep environments in Monroe County. The mostly volunteer-run organization works to improve knowledge, attitudes and beliefs about the risk of unsafe sleep environments in hopes of changing social norms and parent and/or caretaker behavior.

VanStrydonck and fellow Co-Chairman Joanne Cordaro shared the Coalition’s successes from 2016, which included supplying safe sleep brochures to the Monroe County Department of Public Health that were included with 9,962 birth certificates in 2015; distributing safe sleep home kits to the parents of 10,718 babies born in local hospitals over the past 18 months; supporting the efforts of Rochester Regional Health System/Rochester General Hospital in becoming the second hospital in the community to achieve the highest level recognized by the National Safe Sleep Hospital Certification Program-Gold Safe Sleep Champion; raising $3,000 and distributing 15 Pack-n-Plays through the Coalition’s Safe Crib Project; expanding relationships with University of Rochester Medical Center and RRHS outpatient social workers to assist in identifying needs; delivering resources and offering direct safe sleep education to patients; supporting an ultimately unsuccessful legislative ban on the sale of crib bumpers in the state, generating over 200 letters to state Senate and Assembly representatives; launching the first steps of a strategic planning process to ensure the future and ongoing mission of Baby Safe Sleep by conducting interviews with three local agencies; and collaborating with the Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong Memorial Hospital/Pediatric Sleep Medicine Services to develop a tip sheet for parents and caregivers aimed at reducing instances where adults and babies co-sleep.

The goals for 2017 include strengthening connections with local day cares and oversight agencies to ensure that current safe sleep practices are taught and enforced and continuing to pursue a statewide ban on the sale of crib bumpers in New York.

“Every year, we rely on the dedication and efforts of our Coalition members in educating the community on the vital importance of following safe sleep recommendations,” VanStrydonck said. “We rely on their community connections, expertise and willingness to share their time to spread the word about safe sleep for infants.”

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