Nav: Home

Chicago sudden infant death cases never make the news

September 12, 2018

While news media reporting traffic crashes and fire-related deaths of infants and children is routine and often leads to preventative measures to reduce these deaths, there is little or no news coverage of sleep-related or sudden infants deaths, which contributes to the lack of efforts to prevent these deaths, according to a Rush physician.

Dr. Kyran Quinlan and colleagues at Rush University Medical Center found that the Chicago news media reported 59 percent of child traffic crash deaths and 38 percent of child fire deaths, while sleep-related infant deaths in Chicago were never reported in the five years they studied. The findings are published online in the editorial, "Differential Media Reporting of Unintentional Child Deaths in Chicago, 2011-2015" on Sept. 12 in the American Journal of Public Health.

"If sudden unexpected infant deaths were reported in the news as often as crash deaths and fire-related deaths, there would be better public awareness and parents would be driven to do what they can to protect their children from this threat," said Quinlan.

In Chicago, most sudden unexpected infant death cases occur in unsafe sleep environments. Parents may not feel the very real risk from this practice. Babies should sleep on their back, in a crib or bassinet and not come into the parent's bed to sleep. We think so much about children dying in fires because it's tragic and we hear or read about it all the time in news reports. We fear giving car keys to our teens because of the number of deaths in car crashes, but babies who are dying within the first year of life from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and suffocation are almost invisible, but their number towers over the other causes," added Quinlan, associate professor and division director of general pediatrics at Rush.

Parents don't hear about deaths, don't see risks

Sudden unexpected infant death occurs during the first year of life, and 90 percent of them take place within the first six months. "It's this high-risk time when parents should pay close attention, but risk perception isn't there because parents never hear about these cases," Quinlan said.

While sudden unexpected infant death only occurs within the first year of life, it accounted for 212 deaths of Chicago infants between 2011 and 2015--more than those children of all ages who died from motor vehicle crashes and fires combined during the same period.

In Chicago from 2011 to 2015, there were 71 motor vehicle-related deaths, according to the Fatality Analysis Reporting System shared by the Illinois Department of Transportation. For the same timeframe in Chicago, there were 45 fire-related deaths among young persons, according to the Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal.

Racial disparities of deaths is greater in Chicago than U.S. overall

The analysis of data from the Center for Health Statistics of the Illinois Department of Public Health showed there were a total of 221 sudden unexpected infant death cases. Non-Hispanic Black infants accounted for 77 percent of all cases, 14 percent of cases were Hispanic infants, and 8 percent were non-Hispanic White infants. The six largest local media outlets in Chicago covered 42 (59 percent) of the motor vehicle-related deaths, 17 (38 percent) fire-related deaths of young people, but not one of the 221 sudden unexpected infant death cases.

"There is a far greater racial disparity among sudden unexpected infant death cases in Chicago than in the U.S. overall. Families may not realize these deaths aren't rare, and may be less motivated to practice safe sleep, especially bringing their infant into their bed to sleep," said Quinlan.

"We know that Chicagoans learn a lot about health risks from the local news. If parents are not hearing about sudden infant deaths in the local news, they likely won't realize their infant sleeep practices are risky, and therefore won't change. The lack of media reporting on these deaths may actually be putting Chicago's babies at risk," said Dr. Douglas Roehler, one of the authors on this study.

These infant deaths are devastating to families, but we believe that most are preventable. Further work is necessary to investigate the reasons behind these findings and the possible implications for prevention of cases in this high-risk group."

Rush University Medical Center

Related Public Health Articles:

Public health guidelines aim to lower health risks of cannabis use
Canada's Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines, released today with the endorsement of key medical and public health organizations, provide 10 science-based recommendations to enable cannabis users to reduce their health risks.
Study clusters health behavior groups to broaden public health interventions
A new study led by a University of Kansas researcher has used national health statistics and identified how to cluster seven health behavior groups based on smoking status, alcohol use, physical activity, physician visits and flu vaccination are associated with mortality.
Public health experts celebrate 30 years of CDC's prevention research solutions for communities with health disparities
It has been 30 years since CDC created the Prevention Research Centers (PRC) Program, currently a network of 26 academic institutions across the US dedicated to moving new discoveries into the communities that need them.
Public health experts support federally mandated smoke-free public housing
In response to a new federal rule mandating smoke-free policies in federally funded public housing authorities, three public health experts applaud the efforts of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development to protect nonsmoking residents from the harmful effects of tobacco exposure.
The Lancet Public Health: UK soft drinks industry levy estimated to have significant health benefits, especially among children
The UK soft drinks industry levy, due to be introduced in April 2018, is estimated to have significant health benefits, especially among children, according to the first study to estimate its health impact, published in The Lancet Public Health.
More Public Health News and Public Health Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Teaching For Better Humans
More than test scores or good grades — what do kids need to prepare them for the future? This hour, guest host Manoush Zomorodi and TED speakers explore how to help children grow into better humans, in and out of the classroom. Guests include educators Olympia Della Flora and Liz Kleinrock, psychologist Thomas Curran, and writer Jacqueline Woodson.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#534 Bacteria are Coming for Your OJ
What makes breakfast, breakfast? Well, according to every movie and TV show we've ever seen, a big glass of orange juice is basically required. But our morning grapefruit might be in danger. Why? Citrus greening, a bacteria carried by a bug, has infected 90% of the citrus groves in Florida. It's coming for your OJ. We'll talk with University of Maryland plant virologist Anne Simon about ways to stop the citrus killer, and with science writer and journalist Maryn McKenna about why throwing antibiotics at the problem is probably not the solution. Related links: A Review of the Citrus Greening...