Safe Sleep Initiative Launched in Sarasota



The safety and preservation of infants and newborns was on everybody’s mind at the Sheriffs department today. The launch of the Safe Sleep Sarasota Initiative was marked by a press conference held at the Sarasota Sheriff’s Department. The Safe Sleep Sarasota Initiative is a community-wide movement that intends to educate and protect new families from preventable infant deaths. 

More than 450 infants each year die in Florida due to neglect, 100 of those from the completely preventable cause of unsafe sleep. “I could build a preschool with the hundred babies that aren’t with us today,” said Mike Carroll, Florida Secretary of the  Department of Children and Families. Measures as simple as keeping infants alone, on their backs and in a crib could prevent these deaths.

Shon Ewans, executive director of the Healthy Start Coalition of Sarasota County, said three babies have died this way in Sarasota County this calendar year, and six died here in 2013. 

Caroll expressed his confidence in Sarasota as the place the Safe Sleep Initiative would succeed, mentioning an unprecedented level of community and government collaboration. The Initiative necessitates this kind of collaboration, Carroll said, because the community needs to wholeheartedly embrace initiatives for them to be successful.

Carroll mentioned that simply educating new parents is not enough—the education also has to spread to the families of those new parents. Potential resistance to the Safe Sleep Initiative was identified in families who relied on traditions based on outdated models of child rearing, like the now-dated belief that lying a child on their stomach to sleep is beneficial.

The Safe Sleep Sarasota Initiative is completely community supported and funded. Sarasota Memorial Hospital committed to a program of educating new parents about safe sleep practices.  And to help spread the information about unsafe and safe sleep to new parents in Sarasota, the Community Foundation of Sarasota CEO Roxie Jerde presented the Healthy Start Coalition of Sarasota County with a check for $5,000. This money will go towards the creation of safe sleep kits, which will include educational information on proper safe sleep methods.

Jerde said one of the markers of success for the Safe Sleep Sarasota Initiative will be the number of families that are made aware of the issue of unsafe sleep. The end goal for the Initiative will be to reduce the number of infant deaths attributable to unsafe sleep to zero, from the three to six it has been in past years.

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