Infant mortality is one of the six target areas of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)’s ongoing initiative to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in health by the year 2010. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is one of the most common causes of infant mortality, and it is an especially serious problem in Indian Country. According to the CJ Foundation for SIDS, a national non-profit organization dedicated to SIDS prevention, nationwide SIDS rates for infants of American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) mothers are 2.6 times higher than in the general population.

To help close this tragic gap, in 2003 HHS teamed up with the CJ Foundation to launch a public-private partnership aimed at reducing the risk of SIDS in Indian Country. Other members of the coalition included the Association of American Indian Physicians and the Smoke-Free Families National Dissemination Office. To develop weapons for their SIDS-fighting arsenal, HHS and the CJ Foundation awarded grants to three American Indian organizations serving populations that suffer some of the highest SIDS rates in the nation. The organizations used the funding to develop culturally competent educational materials that address the unique SIDS prevention needs of Native American communities.

These materials are now available to all health professionals who work with Native populations. The CJ Foundation has collected and incorporated them into a new AI/AN SIDS Risk Reduction Resource Kit that is being distributed nationally. The kit, which is designed to be Pan-Native rather than tribe-specific for the widest possible use, includes:

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• A 24-page training and resource manual that health educators can use to conduct one-on-one counseling and classroom education.

• Two videos, “Saving Indian Infants from Dying in Their Sleep” and “SIDS Awareness Project,” in both VHS and CD-ROM formats.

• A CD-ROM containing culturally appropriate posters, brochures, public service announcements and other educational materials that can be distributed in Native American communities to spread awareness about SIDS prevention.

In a presentation at the recent National Alaska Native American Indian Nurses Association 2004 Annual Summit, R. Mona Rosenman of the CJ Foundation explained that there are several factors that contribute to the unusually high SIDS rates in Indian Country. For example, 20.2% of AI/AN women smoke during pregnancy compared with only 13.2% of women of all races. AI/AN women also have higher rates of alcohol use during pregnancy than the national average (3.6% versus 1.1%). Therefore, the resource kit focuses not only on the universal SIDS prevention message of putting infants to sleep on their backs but also on strategies for reducing the behaviors that increase SIDS risk.

The American Indian/Alaska Native SIDS Risk Reduction Resource Kit is available to health professionals and community health educators free of charge. For more information, and to order the kit, visit the CJ Foundation Web site at


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