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A Hospital-Based Initiative to Reduce Postdischarge Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES:

Sudden unexpected infant deaths (SUID) most often occur because infants are placed in unsafe sleep environments. Although authors of previous literature have demonstrated that parents who receive comprehensive safe sleep education increase knowledge and intention to place children in safe sleep environments, no studies have demonstrated improved outcomes. We describe the development of a hospital-based newborn SUID risk reduction quality improvement project and its effectiveness in reducing subsequent SUIDs in a community using linked outcome data from local Child Fatality Review Teams.

METHODS:

Qualitative and quantitative evaluation of a long-term iterative performance improvement intervention for a nursery-based comprehensive safe sleep program in a community teaching hospital. Key themes and exemplary comments were noted. The rate of infant deaths per 1000 births was the primary quantitative outcome. The rate is calculated quarterly and monitored with control charts by using Child Fatality Review data about infant sleep deaths.

RESULTS:

The average death rate fell from 1.08 infants per 1000 births preintervention to 0.48 infants per 1000 births after complete intervention, and the average number of deaths between deliveries increased from 1 in every 584 deliveries (upper control limit: 3371) to 1 in every 1420 deliveries (upper control limit: 8198). Qualitative observation of nursery providers revealed 3 themes, including routine inclusion of sleep safety information, dissemination of safety information by all staff, and personal commitment to success.

CONCLUSIONS:

A comprehensive sleep safety culture change can be effectively integrated into a nursery setting over time by using feedback from Child Fatality Review and performance improvement methodology. Repeated messaging and education by the entire nursery staff has the potential to play a role in reducing sleep-related deaths in infants born at their hospital.

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