Baltimore Fathers Speak Out to Encourage Safe Sleep in New Campaign

14 Jun 2013
Father and son

Sleep Safe Ambassador Antoine Dow and his son.

Baltimore Commissioner of Health Dr. Oxiris Barbot, The Family League of Baltimore and leaders of the B’more for Healthy Babies initiative to reduce infant mortality launched a new “SLEEP SAFE” campaign video to encourage fathers to implement safe sleep practices for their babies and to encourage fellow dads to do the same. Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Center for Communication Programs (JHU∙CCP) leads the health communication activities for the project and produced the video.

The dads’ campaign features posters, media outreach and a brand new video of Baltimore fathers encouraging their friends to practice the basics of safely putting an infant to sleep – alone, on his or her back, in a crib. The campaign is part of a multi-year messaging strategy, launched in August 2010, focused on promoting a safe sleep environment for infants.

“Infant mortality is one of the most significant public health problems in the city,” said Dr. Barbot. “Even one death of an infant because of unsafe sleep practices is one too many. With this new campaign, we are bringing safe sleep education to fathers, who are often seen as protectors of the family, in hopes that they will help reinforce safe sleep practices in their families and communities.”

In the video, three fathers talk about the importance of safe sleep and encourage fathers to tell their friends to put their babies to sleep following the “Alone. Back. Crib.” mantra.

Antoine Dow, a Druid Heights resident with three children (pictured), is one of the fathers in the video. He says that he first learned of safe sleep through an earlier video released by B’more for Healthy Babies. “After watching this video I realized that I was putting my son to sleep incorrectly and risking his life,” said Dow, who still shows that video to clients at Cutt Styles Unisex Barbershop, the shop he owns in his neighborhood.

With the release of this new video, Dow and other fathers will have a resource to share the importance of safe sleep practices with their friends, family and colleagues. “This issue is extremely important for me as father,” said Dow. “I get this information out to other fathers who are risking their child’s life by incorrect safe sleeping patterns.”

The new campaign is another step in fulfilling the vision of B’more for Healthy Babies — to ensure that all of Baltimore’s babies are born healthy weight, full term and ready to thrive in healthy families. By targeting fathers, the initiative expands its reach and emphasizes that fathers play a vital part in the health of their young daughter or son.

Safe sleep practices are considered a key step in reducing infant deaths. Since B’more for Healthy Babies began safe sleep messaging, sleep-related infant deaths (SRIDs) has steadily decreased each year in the city, and is down almost 50 percent since 2009. There were 27 SRIDs in 2009, compared with 14 in 2012.

Co-led by the Family League and the Baltimore City Health Department and in partnership with JHU∙CCP, the B’more for Healthy Babies initiative was launched in 2010 to combat Baltimore’s high rate of infant mortality. Through the implementation of new policies, the launch of various messaging campaigns and by forging partnerships with community organizations, the initiative has spotlighted the issue of infant mortality in Baltimore and has affected positive change in the community. Since 2010, the infant mortality rate in Baltimore has dropped more than 20 percent.