By Michaela Gibson Morris
TUPELO – SIDS deaths dropped by more than half in Mississippi between 2011 and 2012.
Statistics released Friday by the Mississippi State Department of Health showed that 21 children died in 2012 as the result of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome – a finding made after a complete death investigation rules out any other known cause.
In 2011, 43 deaths were attributed to SIDS.
“It’s nice to have some good news,” said Dr. Mary Currier, state health officer. “While this is definitely reason to celebrate, we need to remember that Mississippi continues to be above the national average in SIDS deaths and infant mortality.”
Tupelo pediatrician Dr. Ed Ivancic said he sees wider awareness of the measures that reduce the risk for SIDS, particularly the practice of putting infants to sleep on their backs, not their stomachs, and avoiding secondhand smoke exposure.
“Parents are more receptive to the Back to Sleep education efforts,” Ivancic said. “It’s taken time to get people used to it.”
In addition to wider awareness of parents, Leslie Threadgill, program director for the Mississippi SIDS Alliance, attributes part of the drop to more thorough death investigations and more accurate classification of deaths.
There’s still important work to be done for safe sleep campaigns, Threadgill said. Sharing a bed with adults increases the risk of death from suffocation, which is significant risk for Mississippi babies.
“We encourage them to share a room, not a bed,” Threadgill said.
However, better classification doesn’t account for the entire drop in SIDS. When infant deaths from suffocation, SIDS and Sudden Unexplained Infant Death Syndrome (SUIDS) are considered together, there is an overall decrease from 2011 to 2012, Currier said.
Overall, Mississippi has seen a decline in its infant mortality rate from 11.4 deaths per 1,000 live births to 8.9 infant deaths per 1,000 births.
“In order to continue this decline in the deaths of our infants we must ensure that women are healthy before they are pregnant, have access to good prenatal care when they become pregnant, are educated on the risk of smoking around infants and understand the importance of safe sleep practices,” Currier said.