The success of a New Zealand programme to educate parents about safe sleeping for their babies was shared at an international Congress, held in Amsterdam during September 2014, to reduce worldwide perinatal and infant mortality rates.
Stephanie Cowan, Director of Change for our Children, presented a case study on the Pēpi-PodÒ Programme which achieved widespread participation across New Zealand with particular success in the Midland Region.
Since it was introduced in 2013, more than 7,000 portable sleep pods, information and support, have been supplied to parents of vulnerable babies aged from birth to 12 months. Stephanie Cowan said the five District Health Boards in Midland “took the Pēpi-PodÒ Programme to a whole new level under the leadership of Ditre Tamatea, Midland GM Maori Health Lead, Waikato DHB, where 44% of all births in Midland are Maori. Ditre’s team joined forces with Suzanne Andrew, Project Manager with HealthShare for the Midland Maternity Action Group, to create a ‘whole of region’ sleep space service that is integrated into child health plans and reporting.”
Twelve thousand births, or 20% of New Zealand’s annual births, occur in the Midland region, which is made up of the five District Health Boards (Bay of Plenty, Lakes, Tairawhiti, Taranaki, and Waikato). Of these births, 44% are Maori, compared to lower Maori birth rates in the Southern, Central and Northern health regions of New Zealand.
During 2013, Midland was the only region where numbers of infant deaths continued to fall and Stephanie Cowan’s presentation said this is encouraging given that Midland has a high proportion of Maori births (43%) compared to Northern (23.4%), Central (32.8%) and Southern (18.9%) regions. Infant mortality is now similar across all regions.
The issue is shared around the world. In 2012, the World Health Organisation reported that nearly three million deaths occurred during the first month of life, and almost five million deaths within the first year of life.
One of the goals of the Amsterdam Congress was to identify actions to address the ‘causes’ of sudden and unexpected baby deaths during pregnancy, labour or in the first year. The Congress aimed to exchange preventive measures and successful strategies that have been developed to prevent infant death, the New Zealand Midland region providing a graphic example of the change that can be effected through programmes which involve and support parents.
Midland’s Safe Sleep Programme is a partnership between Change for our Children, Midland’s Maori Health Services, and the Midland Maternity Action Group, a clinical network facilitated through HealthShare.