Community health workers (CHWs) serve as links between health care and social services and the community. They assist individuals and families with accessing community services and improving the quality and cultural competence of service delivery. These trusted community members often have different titles, such as public health advisors, community health advocates, health educators, community health representatives, peer health promoters, and promotores de salud.
CHWs often live in or have close relationships with the communities they serve, meaning they also have special insights into the needs and features of those communities. Even though they provide care and services in many locations, CHWs are an integral part of several cultures and may be the main point of health care for members of these communities.
As part of Safe to Sleep® activities with and within American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) communities, the campaign focused some of its efforts on CHWs who work in tribal areas. Recommendations from the Healthy Native Babies Project Workgroup and feedback from members of AI/AN communities enabled the Safe to Sleep® campaign to design materials and tools to help CHWs spread safe sleep messages and create materials tailored for AI/ANs. The workgroup also created training materials to help CHWs educate tribal elders and other community leaders about ways to reduce the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related causes of infant death.
Safe to Sleep® activities within Spanish-speaking communities also focus on equipping promotores de salud with the information and training they need to share safe sleep messages with Spanish speakers.
The Safe to Sleep® campaign traditionally has relied on health care providers—doctors, nurses, midwives, and others—to help spread safe sleep messages to parents and caregivers. These trusted community members often have easy access and multiple opportunities to interact directly with parents and caregivers. More importantly, they can share safe sleep information and model safe sleep practices to have a real impact on infant care.
In addition to materials and activities related to health care providers in general, the Safe to Sleep® campaign maintains initiatives that aim to capitalize on the unique relationships between patients and nurses.
Nurses are an important information resource for new parents and often spend the most time with families following the birth of a child. Nurses are also in a unique position in that their behavior has a strong influence on parental behavior.
Research has shown that parents are more likely to follow safe sleep practices—particularly placing infants in the back sleep position—when they see nursery staff consistently model this behavior in the hospital.1 A 2002 study in New Haven, CT, found that nurses who placed infants in the back sleep position during the postpartum hospital stay changed parents’ behaviors significantly.2 Safe sleep practices can also be modeled during postpartum care in out-of-hospital birth settings, such as birthing centers.
To make the most of this influence, NICHD and the Safe to Sleep® campaign partnered with the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR) at NIH and the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) to create a continuing education course that gives nurses the information and tools needed to effectively communicate and model SIDS risk reduction messages.
- Background information on SIDS, sudden unexplained infant death (SUID), and SIDS research
- Specific recommendations and risk reduction strategies
- Practical ways to demonstrate and communicate this information to parents and families
In addition to NICHD, NINR, and AWHONN, current and past partners in the nurses’ CE effort include the Academy of Neonatal Nursing; the American College of Nurse Midwives; the Association of SIDS and Infant Mortality Programs; CJ First Candle; March of Dimes; National Alaska Native/American Indian Nurses Association; National Association of Neonatal Nurses; National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners; Society of Pediatric Nurses; and the Washington State Department of Health.
To support its work with trusted community members, the Safe to Sleep® campaign has created various materials.
- Risk Reduction for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and Other Sleep-Related Causes of Infant Death: Curriculum for Nurses (Online Only)
- Healthy Native Babies Project Workbook Packet (includes Workbook, Handout, Toolkit Disk, and Toolkit User Guide)
- Questions and Answers for Health Care Providers: SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Causes of Infant Death