CONCORD TOWNSHIP, Ohio, March 31, 2015—Lake Health is on a mission to save lives by raising awareness of the number one cause of preventable infant death: unsafe sleeping environments. The health system recently stepped up efforts to keep babies safe and sound as they sleep by joining the Ohio Hospital Association’s Safe Sleep is Good4Baby, aninitiative launched last year to reduce Ohio’s infant mortality rate by helping ensure infants sleep safely.
Although the U.S. infant mortality rate has fallen steadily in recent decades, Ohio ranks fourth worst in the nation. Every year, more than 1,000 Ohio babies die before their first birthday because they were born too soon, didn’t receive proper prenatal care or slept in unsafe environments. Ohio averages three sleep-related infant deaths per week.
At Lake Health’s Family Birthing Suites at West Medical Center and TriPoint Medical Center, promoting safe sleep is a top priority.
“Putting babies to sleep in a safe way is key to the prevention of sudden unexpected infant death,” said Angie Quirk, director of Women's and Children's Services for Lake Health. “Our caregivers model the ABCs of safe sleep—Alone, on the Back, in a Crib—to show parents and families the type of sleeping environment that is safest for their babies. By teaching and demonstrating these methods we hope to bring more awareness to this issue and reduce the number of preventable deaths.”
Eliminating behaviors that put infants at risk such as co-sleeping and exposure to secondhand smoke are emphasized throughout prenatal care and in parent education classes. Crib signage, posters, discharge instructions and educational materials provided by The Safe Sleep is Good4Baby program reinforce the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations that infants should:
• Always be placed on their backs to sleep
• Sleep alone in a crib or bassinet
• Not have blankets, bumper pads, stuffed animals, toys or pets in their cribs
• Sleep on a firm crib mattress with the mattress covered only by a fitted sheet
To further enhance safety, Lake Health no longer uses traditional blankets to keep babies warm. All babies born at Lake Health are now swaddled in a HALOÒ SleepSack wearable blanket. The SleepSack, with fabric flaps that hold baby's arms close to the body, makes swaddling safer and easier by giving babies a secure feeling and freedom of leg movement without danger of loose fabric around the head. All parents receive a new SleepSack to take home thanks to a generous grant from the Hershey Foundation and the Lake Health Foundation. Parents who deliver at Lake Health also receive other gifts including a Lake County Captains’ sleep cap and game tickets.
In addition to in-hospital efforts to educate new parents and families, Lake Health has teamed up with the Lake County Family and Children First Council, Lake County General Health District and local fire departments to raise awareness of sleep-related infant death in the community. Safe sleep messages will soon appear on billboards throughout the county and on the Facebook pages of the local partner agencies, including Lake Health.
To help babies get the healthiest start, Lake Health is also participating in the Ohio Hospital Association’s 39+ Weeks is Good4Baby initiative to reduce early elective deliveries. The program complements the policy Lake Health implemented two years ago prohibiting scheduled cesarean sections and labor inductions before 39 weeks of pregnancy unless medically necessary. Since that time the rate of scheduled births between 36 and 38 weeks gestation without a documented medical indication declined from 30 percent to less than 5 percent. And more importantly, the number of babies admitted to neonatal intensive care also decreased.
“Full-term pregnancy benefits babies in so many ways," explained Liese Vito, MD, chair of the Department of Obstetrics/Gynecology at Lake Health. “The last weeks of pregnancy, although they can be uncomfortable, are very important. Babies aren’t just putting on weight—they’re undergoing critical development of the brain, lungs and other vital organs.”
According to the March of Dimes, each year in Ohio more than 17,000 babies are born before 37 weeks gestation putting them at higher risk for infant death, as well as breathing problems, bloodstream infections and other serious medical complications. As these premature babies grow, they are also more likely to develop significant health problems such as mental retardation, cerebral palsy, learning difficulties and vision and hearing problems.
For expectant parents who are anxious to meet their newborn, patience and education is key. Lake Health obstetricians and midwives act as partners to support and educate expectant parents about the benefits of a 39-week or longer pregnancy and the dangers early deliveries can pose.
“While every pregnancy carries risks, the risks to the baby are higher if all organs are not developed completely,” Dr. Vito said. “At times, fetal or maternal complications necessitate delivery prior to 39 weeks gestation. Although modern medicine makes it possible for premature infants to survive and even thrive, research shows we shouldn’t force labor or delivery until both mom and baby are ready. It’s a triumph to ‘go the distance’—all the way to full term.”
Women who choose to give birth early may also face their own health challenges. Studies show they have stronger, more frequent contractions during labor; are more likely to experience postpartum depression; and have an increased chance of requiring a C-section. Women who have a C-section have a greater risk of infection and a longer recovery time than women who had a vaginal birth.
“Infant mortality is a complex and multifaceted issue touching multiple areas of maternal and child health—from prenatal care of pregnant women to safe sleep positions for babies. Through our in-hospital initiatives and outreach efforts, we’re committed to reducing infant mortality in Lake and surrounding counties and improving quality of life for both mothers and their newborns,” said Cynthia Moore-Hardy, FACHE, president and CEO of Lake Health.
Foreign travel and parents not vaccinating their children are among the reasons for the recent rise in the number of measles cases across the United States.
What you need to know about the measles:
•Measles is common in many parts of the world.
•It is a highly contagious respiratory disease that spreads through the air or on infected surfaces. According to the CDC, the measles virus can live for up to two hours on a surface or in an airspace where the infected person coughed or sneezed. If other people breathe the contaminated air or touch the infected surface, then touch their eyes, noses, or mouths, they can become infected. Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected. Infected people can spread measles to others from four days before to four days after the rash appears.
•Measles cause a rash, high fever, runny nose, cough, and red watery eyes.
•Measles can be serious; of every 1,000 people who get measles, 1 to 2 will die.
According to Lake Health Pediatrician, Marni Turell, MD, the measles vaccine is safe and one of the most important ways parents can protect their children from this very real disease. Dr.Turell recommends children receive the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine at age 12-15 months and again at 4-6 years.