By Lois Plantefaber, LMSW Safer Sleep Outreach Campaign Coordinator, Washtenaw Area Council for Children

The Washtenaw Area Council for Children, in collaboration with the Washtenaw Coalition for Infant Mortality Reduction,
launched a Washtenaw Infants Sleep Safer Here public awareness campaign (WISSH) in March 2006 to address
preventable infant deaths caused by unsafe sleep practices. In 2005 alone, five children died in Washtenaw County
related to how or where they were sleeping. The WISSH campaign incorporated the latest Safe Sleep guidelines
endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics in October 2005 and promotes the ABC’s of Safer Sleep: Alone in
my bed; Back to Sleep and Cover me not.

In March 2007, the WISSH campaign created an 11-minute “Safer Sleep for Your Baby” video geared toward parents
and caregivers. Through the voices of a mother, whose son died in day care because of soft toys and bedding in the
crib, Dr. Sheila Gahagan (Michigan Chapter President of the American Academy of Pediatrics), and a death scene
investigator, viewers are exposed to the stark realities of unsafe sleeping environments. Along with the video, the
campaign has produced a comprehensive PowerPoint presentation that provides professionals with extensive
background information to use when leading discussions on safer sleep practices and a resource binder of other
educational materials.

The Safer Sleep public awareness campaign has been overwhelmingly successful. More than 400 pediatricians, nurses,
hospital staff, service providers and parents have been trained in the promotion of safer sleep practices. Home visitors
have found that showing the video with a family in their home has a powerful impact on parents and many have changed
their sleep practices as a result of this education. At least four hospitals in the State of Michigan now show the video on
in-house television and more than 150 resource kits have been distributed within Washtenaw County, the state and even

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