A local physicians group and advocates are working together to research how much pregnant women know about safely placing infants during sleep.
The pilot program is part of a task force formed by the Medical Society of Sedgwick County to reduce infant mortality in the Wichita area.
According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, the overall rate for Kansas residents was 6.3 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 2012, the most recent data. In Sedgwick County, it’s 7.4 infant deaths per 1,000.
The estimated rate of infant deaths for the U.S. in 2013 is 5.9 out of 1,000 live births, according to the CIA World Factbook.
Zachary Kuhlmann, an obstetrician and gynecologist with Associates in Women’s Health, is participating in the program and said the group will work with about 100 pregnant patients as part of the initial research.
As part of the program, women who come in for appointments at 28 and 36 weeks pregnant are quizzed about their knowledge of safe sleep and then introduced to the information by the physician.
Kuhlmann said he was unaware of other OB physicians who educated expectant parents on safe sleep before birth.
“No one has ever looked at safe sleep in OB or prenatal care. ... We’re trying to change the culture so that before the problems exists, it’s already been addressed with the patient,” Kuhlmann said.
Kuhlmann said he will continue to educate patients about safe sleep even after the research. He said he hopes that the results of the program can be rolled out to other practices as well.
“Our goal is to change the behavior and really, truly make this part of OB practice,” he said.
The medical society has also provided tool kits to teach safe sleep to physicians in residency and training programs throughout the city so they can pass that information on to patients, Kuhlmann said.
“(We want to address this) before the baby is born because that’s when parents are setting up the nursery and purchasing things,” said Christy Schunn, executive director of the Kansas Infant Death and SIDS Network, who is part of the task force.
Generally speaking, infant mortality rates are higher among Latino and black populations, Schunn said. In Kansas, the black infant mortality rate is about three times higher than it is for whites.
This particular project is a broad spectrum approach with patients of all backgrounds, Schunn said.
“Our hope is that we can gather the information and determine the effectiveness and roll it out to other providers across the city and the state,” Schunn said.