Parkview Health launches safe sleep program to reduce infant mortality, educate caregivers

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Parkview Health’s Advanced Medical Simulation Lab, in partnership with Healthier Moms and Babies and New Tech Academy at Wayne High School, is launching a pilot program designed to increase adherence to safe sleep practices among infant caregivers in Allen County, with the goal of decreasing sleep-related infant deaths in the 46805 and 46806 zip codes. The Simulation to Promote Safe Sleep program is being funded by a grant from the St. Joseph Community Health Foundation and is set to begin in February 2021.

“Infant lives could be saved,” said John Lozo, healthcare simulation specialist at Parkview. “These babies are dying from preventable causes and the intervention could be as simple as providing education with a 3-D model.”

The Simulation to Promote Safe Sleep program utilizes experiential learning to emphasize the importance of safe sleep practices among current or expectant infant caregivers. Community health workers from Parkview Health and educators from Healthier Moms and Babies will use a 3-D model to provide a visual representation of what can happen when an infant spits up while on their belly versus spitting up while on their back. This in-home simulation clarifies a common misconception that an infant is safer sleeping on their belly.

“Years ago what we instructed moms to do was to sleep their babies on their tummies,” said Erin Norton, director of community outreach at Parkview Women’s & Children’s Hospital. “Since then, there has been a lot of new research, a lot of new understanding about what really causes deaths related to unsafe sleep. Now we know that we’ve got better information and that the safe sleep position is really on their backs. But for a lot of grandmas and aunties, they still remember what it used to be and so this is a way that the whole family can get involved in learning the new practices because when we know better we do better.”

The program will also utilize a mobile application that pairs with an infant doll to demonstrate the potential physiological response to different sleep positions. The educator may take the infant doll and place it in varying locations and sleep positions within the caregiver’s home, and the corresponding sleep position can be selected on the mobile app. This will allow the simulated infant heart rate and oxygen saturation to be displayed for each sleep position and serve as a visual and auditory representation of what is happening to the infant in different sleep positions. The mobile app is being designed by Key Club students at New Tech Academy at Wayne High School.

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