Little progress in preventing sudden infant deaths since last report: BC Coroner

Coroners panel studied 141 sleep-related sudden infant deaths between 2013 and 2018

There’s been no change in the number of babies dying in their sleep five years after B.C.’s coroners’ services made recommendations to stem the trend.

The service says its death review panel found about 23 infants under the age of one die unexpectedly while sleeping each year.

The panel studied 141 sleep-related sudden infant deaths between 2013 and 2018 and found infants continue to die under the same circumstances identified by an earlier panel that looked at the same types of deaths between 2008 and 2012.

The panel report says the deaths disproportionately affect vulnerable young families with risk factors, such as exposure to tobacco, while a combination of sleep positions and health issues may increase the danger.

The panel calls for additional support from public-health nurses and other trained providers for expectant women and families with infants, and consistent, accessible messages related to infant sleep practices.

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It also recommends a provincial approach to the review of infant deaths, including expanded investigative protocols.

“Something that stood out for us is that there are many parallels to the findings from our death review panel into these deaths five years ago,” panel chairman Michael Egilson said. “That means there is still work to do around sharing messaging about safe sleep practices and associated risk with the right audience; and, there is work to do to better support new parents with identified vulnerabilities.”

Egilson was joined on the panel by 19 experts working in areas like youth services, child welfare, maternal health, medicine, law enforcement and Indigenous health.

It found gaps in capacity for delivering universal health services and for providing enhanced services to vulnerable families.

The previous death panel’s report, published in 2014, also made recommendations aimed at improving investigative practices and data collection for investigators, including coroners and first responders.

It called for guidelines to be established for genetic testing in coroner investigations and identifying audiences and messaging around safe sleep practices.

The Canadian Press

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