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Educating the next generation on infant safety

Last Modified: July 09, 2024

Community, Women & Children

safe sleep

Infant mortality remains a pressing concern in Allen County, with zip codes 46806 and 46805 showing some of the highest rates in Indiana. In 2009, an examination conducted by the Allen County Child Fatality Review Team revealed that 13 infant deaths were linked to unsafe practices.

Acknowledging the urgent need for change, Parkview Health has supported safe sleep programs since then, creating the Safe Slumber Program offered through Parkview Family Birthing Centers. This service offers free, safe sleep education to the community and provides safety-approved portable cribs for qualifying parents who do not have a secure place for their baby to sleep.

However, despite ongoing efforts, infant mortality rates in these communities remain alarmingly high. According to the Indiana Department of Health's 2021 Infant Mortality & Birth Outcomes report, the 46806 zip code was still ranked the seventh-highest infant mortality rate by zip code in Indiana.

Expanding access

This disheartening reality inspired Parkview community nurses, who work through the Fort Wayne Community Schools Family and Community Engagement Center (FACE) clinic in partnership with FWCS and Super Shot, to take action.

To do their part in raising awareness, in 2017, Natalie McLaughlin, BSN, RN, NCSN, April Didion, BSN, RN, and Amy Moord, RN, began incorporating safe sleep education into babysitting classes offered to students aged 11 to 13 during FWCS school breaks in 2017. Their curriculum covered essential topics such as safely putting an infant on his or her back to sleep, preventing shaken baby syndrome, and recognizing and relieving infant choking.

Through these classes, the community nurses identified a significant gap in infant safety education among this age group. Although it's common for infants to have multiple caregivers, including siblings, babysitters and other family members, education on safe sleep practices most frequently reaches only the parents. Bearing in mind that many eighth graders begin babysitting and might become parents in the future, they envisioned providing comprehensive infant safety education to all FWCS eighth graders.

The pilot project

In the fall of 2022, the nurses launched a pilot project in collaboration with middle school science teachers, building on the babysitting training curriculum. Students engaged in hands-on learning with Safe Sleep infant models from the Parkview Simulation Lab. The accompanying mobile app demonstrated oxygen levels in various infant sleep scenarios, such as in a car seat, while co-sleeping with a parent, sleeping on their stomach and alone on their back in a crib.

safe sleep

Over three months, the inaugural education sessions were conducted across 19 different day sessions in 11 middle schools, reaching over 1,700 students. The results were promising, with a 28% increase in knowledge in the post-tests, compared to the pre-tests, given at the start of the session. For the 2023-2024 school year, the nurses educated 1,579 students, with a 29% increase in knowledge in post-test scores.

safe sleep simulation

The students have expressed gratitude for the learning opportunity, providing written feedback such as:

  • "The babies really helped me understand the program."
  • "Thank you for coming out and making sure baby safety is known."
  • "This was helpful information for my future self."
  • Thank you for telling us the aftermath of situations, such as how your life and baby's life will be after."
  • "I liked the simulation and the babies."
  • "The egg demonstration was very cool."

Final thoughts

These successes have paved the way for the return of infant safety courses led by Parkview community nurses in the 2023-2024 school year. With ongoing support from the community, Parkview community nurses are committed to ensuring the sustainability of the Infant Safety class for future cohorts and making it a permanent part of the FWCS science curriculum.

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