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On the Heels of Success

'Back To Sleep' Campaign Gains New Partners

Tipper Gore, wife of Vice President Al Gore, recently agreed to be spokesperson of the Back to Sleep campaign to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and is already spreading the campaign message of placing healthy infants on their backs to sleep. At the same time, Gerber Products Co. became the campaign's first corporate sponsor and is including the Back to Sleep message on the backs of 3 million Gerber rice cereal boxes and in 2.7 million mailers to parents of newborns. These two new partnerships mark an increased effort to expand the campaign's outreach and join an already committed group of both public and private organizations, led by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Tipper Gore (l) follows the "back to sleep" guidelines, as DHHS Secretary Donna Shalala and Daniel Vasella look on. Vasella heads Novaritis Corp., the parent company of Gerber Products, which is one of NICHD's newest partners in the Back to Sleep campaign.

Dr. Marian Willinger, NICHD special assistant for SIDS and Back to Sleep campaign developer who earlier received a DHHS award for the campaign, was named one of "10 Parenting Leaders: Men and Women Who Dedicate Their Hearts and Minds to Improving the Lives of Children," in conjunction with the American Academy of Pediatric's task force on infant positioning and SIDS, by Parenting magazine.

The groundwork for the national campaign was laid overseas, where growing evidence from several countries with back sleeping campaigns reported a drop in SIDS rates of about 50 percent and led to more than 90 percent of infants sleeping on their backs or sides.

Dr. Marian Willinger (l), NICHD special assistant for SIDS and developer of the Back to Sleep campaign, and NICHD deputy director Dr. Yvonne Maddox (c) greet Tipper Gore.

The campaign has been widely accepted in the U.S. and has changed the way babies have been placed to sleep, breaking a predominant pattern of stomach sleeping that had been handed down from generation to generation. Although the causes of SIDS are still not known, what is known is that simply placing a healthy baby on his or her back to sleep can help reduce the risk of the disorder. The success of this recommendation is borne out in a 30 percent reduction in SIDS deaths between 1992 and 1995 (source: U.S. Vital Statistics), much of which is credited to the Back to Sleep campaign, and a 6 percent reduction in infant mortality this year. This reduction in SIDS deaths means that 1,500 fewer infants will die of SIDS this year.

For more information, contact Ruth Dubois, 6-5133. For free campaign materials, contact the Back to Sleep toll-free number: 800-505-CRIB.

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