A look at Michigan Health and Interfaith Leadership efforts on Safe Sleep

Paula Sadler Bio Image

Did you know that a baby dies nearly every other day in Michigan due to unsafe sleep environments? Or that, unsafe sleep is a leading cause of death among infants less than 1 year of age in Michigan? Yet, these deaths are 100% preventable.

A number of programs within the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) are working together in partnership with the Detroit Health Department and Detroit Infant Safe Sleep Coalition to raise awareness and curb the rising trend of sleep-related infant deaths.

Paula Sadler, departmental specialist for MDHHS Office of Interagency Collaboration, and a partner with the Michigan Health and Interfaith Leadership on Safe Sleep (MI HALO’S), shares highlights on the work MI HALO’S has done to prevent infant sleep related deaths.

“Because infant care is often an inter-generational effort, even well intended family members may share outdated or misinformation on best sleeping practices for babies,” said Sadler. “We are proud of the work that MI HALO’S is doing to educate congregations and communities about the safest ways to care for a sleeping infant.”

Last year, MI HALO’S hosted focus groups at several volunteer faith institutions. Participants found group discussions engaging and insightful. Sadler adds, “The intention of the focus groups were twofold: (1) to bring more awareness at the community level and (2) to identify messaging gaps and how well our messaging about safe sleep was resonating at the community level.”

In September 2016, MI HALO’s also held a prayer luncheon to celebrate Safe Sleep Awareness Month. The event was held in Detroit and hosted by the Detroit Health Department and the Detroit Infant Safe Sleep Coalition. Clergy, agencies and staff who participated in the campaign were honored for their invaluable work to raise awareness about safe sleep. 

The group also plans to implement community host sites known as Safe Sleep Hubs where parents and other caregivers can go to receive resources and vital information on how to create safe sleeping environments for babies.

The hubs will initially consist of faith based institutions that participated in the safe sleep focus groups with plans to expand as the program evolves. As the lead coordinator, Sadler will oversee the sites to ensure the successful implementation and expansion of the program. The pilot program is slated to launch in April 2017.

Sadler concludes by reiterating what it means to be an advocate for infant safe-sleep, “After learning that these infant deaths are 100% preventable, I was provoked to action and advocacy for these babies, to make a difference. I am in it to win it for them!” It is a sentiment that is undoubtedly shared by her colleagues and all who work to educate others about safe sleep.

Learn more about Infant Safe Sleep at www.michigan.gov/safesleep.