Penn Medicine Hospitals Receive $1.35 Million from PA Department of Health to Establish Safe Sleep Program for Infants

PHILADELPHIA – Penn Medicine, its affiliates Pennsylvania Hospital (PAH), Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP), and faculty from the School of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania received a three-year, $1.35 million grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Health to design an innovative and replicable program for promoting and evaluating safe sleep practices for newborns.

The Philadelphia Safe Sleep Awareness for Every Well Newborn (S.A.F.E.) Program is being rolled out to hospitals, ambulatory care settings, communities, and homes to address the population-specific problem through nurse, parent and community education, development and dissemination of practice and education resources, and a community partnership with Maternity Care Coalition (MCC).

“In Philadelphia, 45 healthy babies die unexpectedly every year – a rate that is significantly higher than in other major cities,"said Marilyn Stringer, PhD, WHCNP, FAAN, a professor of Women's Health Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing and the principal investigator for the program. “Research shows these tragic deaths can be prevented by following safe sleep guidelines. By promoting safe sleep, and educating healthcare providers, parents and community members on Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID) risk reduction strategies, we can help keep infants safe.”

The specific aims for the S.A.F.E. Program are to:

  • Develop a Safe Sleep Model Program for the hospital environment
  • Recruit all birthing hospitals within the City of Philadelphia and other birthing hospitals across Pennsylvania to participate in the Philadelphia S.A.F.E. Program
  • Facilitate and support the implementation of a comprehensive Safe Sleep Model Program at the recruited hospitals.
  • Increase population awareness of safe sleep practices, address emerging uses of products or behaviors that do not conform to safe sleep practices, and target diverse ethnic populations.

To achieve these aims, Dr. Stringer has assembled a multi-disciplinary team of nationally recognized leaders and researchers in obstetrical and neonatal practice; influential nurse leaders, educators, and scientists from Penn Medicine and the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing; and partners from Maternity Care Coalition with an impressive record of community-based education and engagement using social media venues. During the first year of the project, the team developed nursing policies, assessment and evaluation tools, in-depth online training modules for both professional and support staff in hospitals as well as patient education materials based on the current safe sleep recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics. 

A PASafeSleep collaborative was established with the clinical directors to facilitate the program implementation.  The team also recruited and trained a group of professional nurses and lactation consultants from each hospital to serve as Safe Sleep Subject Matter Experts (SMEs).  These SMEs collected pre-implementation data and facilitated the roll-out of the model hospital program at the unit level.  Moving forward, the SMEs will serve as a resource for the SMEs at the other recruited birthing hospitals to facilitate implementation of the program.

By partnering with MCC, the team has expanded the reach and impact of the project into the communities served by these hospitals. MCC has launched a Multi-Media Marketing Campaign to increase community awareness of safe sleep practices including extensive advertising on public transportation and social media and will soon include radio and waiting room videos. 

All advertising efforts direct consumers to the program’s website, www.PASafeSleep.org. which serves as an extensive resource for healthcare professionals and community members alike.  All components of the program can be accessed and downloaded directly from the website.   

During years two and three, the team will be facilitating implementation of the model hospital program at birthing hospitals in Philadelphia and surrounding counties. The advertising campaign will continue throughout the duration of the project. 

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About the Author: Bonnie Renner Ohnishi, BSN, RNC-MNN, who has been caring for women and infants in Philadelphia for close to two decades, is the Safe Sleep Project Coordinator and active member of the Baby Friendly Task Force at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.