Te Rā Mokopuna 2017 is the first National Safe Sleep Day celebrated by the new National SUDI Prevention Coordination Service.
We accepted our new role from the Ministry of Health as the national lead on SUDI prevention with our eyes open to the suffering caused to whānau all over New Zealand by SUDI.
As a Māori public health organisation, Hāpai is intimately connected to the Māori communities who are disproportionately affected by SUDI, but we are a service for all New Zealanders. We know that the majority of SUDI cases can be prevented, and this is our driving motivation for working in this difficult area.
This Safe Sleep Day we want to highlight the role of communities in ensuring children thrive at home, safe from the risk factors which are linked to SUDI. New Zealand will reach the goal of an 86% reduction in SUDI rates by 2025 if our babies live in smokefree environments, sleep on their backs with their face clear of bedding, in their own bed or a safe sleeping device for bed-sharing, and if mum breastfeeds.
While parents and primary guardians have the most important role in ensuring baby lives in the safest possible environment, there are extended whānau members who can also take a lead role in ensuring children thrive. This could be through giving mums every opportunity to breastfeed for as long as possible, helping parents to access the array of services available to support them and promoting safe sleep practices; wahakura or pēpi pods in bed with mum or in their own bed.
Here at Hāpai we are inspired and encouraged by the creative and varied resources available to whānau around New Zealand to prevent SUDI and support healthy environments for our children. For example, Counties Manukau DHB ran the ‘Smokefree Pregnancy Incentives Pilot’ from 2013-2016 which offered voucher incentives to pregnant mothers to support them to quit smoking. The pilot achieved smoking cessation rates above national averages, and was subsequently implemented as a formal service in Counties Manukau and other DHB areas including Southern, Canterbury and Hawkes Bay.
At a national level the Ministry of Health has taken important steps towards reducing SUDI; for example through the commitment to provide safe sleep devices – pēpi pods or wahakura – to any family that needs one. These can be accessed through midwives or Wellchild services delivered through providers such as Plunket or Whānau Ora services.