A partnership between the Iowa Department of Public Health and the Meridian Health Plan of Iowa will target four Iowa counties to see they can cut the number of infant deaths. Doctor Meghan Harris with Meridian says the program is called “Cribs for Kids.” “And the purpose is to be able to give a crib to families in need, or for families for whatever reason might not have a crib. And it’s regardless of socio-economic status, it’s just ensuring that there are a greater number of infants that have a safe sleep environment,” Harris says.
The program will give away cribs in Hamilton, Black Hawk, Des Moines and Clinton County. The Iowa Child Death Review Team looks at the causes of infant deaths in the state and information from that review that led them to the crib program. “We found that not only were at least half of those infants in an unsafe sleep environment when they died, but their usual sleep space was often not a crib,” Harris says. “And we saw striking differences between different race groups in Iowa that led us to believe that there was a access problem with cribs, and that safe sleep environments were not provided as often as they should be.”
The cribs they are giving out will follow national safety guidelines. “The Consumer Product Safety Commission gives recommendations as does the American Academy of Pediatrics. Some fundamentals are a crib that has a very firm mattress with a fitted sheet and nothing else in the crib whatsoever — no stuff animals, not bumper pads, nothing,” according to Harris. She says the sheets must be made of breathable material.
Those recommendations for a crib that has little in it is different than what we traditionally view as the ideal place for the baby. “It definitely is, but we have to remember that you can put decorations on the walls, you can put decorations on the changing table, just anyplace but the crib,” Harris says. “And for parents who are concerned about not being physically next to your baby, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you place the baby’s crib in your room if you have that concern.You can put that baby’s crib right next to your bed and then you are still in close proximity to your infant.”
Harris says Iowa only has an average of 43 sleep-related infant deaths each year and that’s what they looked at in picking the counties for the pilot project.
She says they looked at the volume of deliveries and the opportunities to give out cribs along with the mortality rates and how they were different by race groups in each of the counties. The one-year pilot project will give them information to determine if there is a need to expand the crib program.
“We’re going to be looking at whether or not handing out cribs in these counties increases the prevalence of safe sleep environments in these infant homes,” Harris says. She says they will compare the results to counties where they don’t give out cribs to see if there is a difference. “And if we are able to show that we can increase the safe sleep environments, then we know that we will ultimately impact mortality rates, and then we would hope to continue the program if our data is favorable.”
There are five participating hospitals in the four counties, the Hamilton County Public Hospital, Covenant and Allan Hospital in Black Hawk County, the Great River Medical Center in Des Moines County and Mercy Medical Center-Clinton in Clinton County.