Families attending a Community Baby Shower May 4 shared wishes for their newborns’ future on a “dream wall” set up in the atrium of Wilmington Hospital. Those dreams, they were told, begin with safe sleep.
Christiana Care’s Health Ambassadors program chose safe sleep as the theme for the educational event as part of a community effort to attack Delaware’s high infant mortality rate.
“The Health Ambassadors promote health before, during and after pregnancy,” said program manager Carla Aponte.
About eight out of 1,000 babies born in Delaware die before their first birthday, compared with a national average of six, according to state statistics. African-American babies are more than twice as likely to be affected.
Attendees learned the ABC’s of safe sleep – infants should sleep alone, on their back, in a crib, in a smoke-free environment. Participants were quizzed: Is it OK for twins to sleep together? What if you’re just taking a nap with your baby? Can your newborn sleep with her favorite toy? The answer to all: No.
Safe-sleep habits can be life-saving, reducing the incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
More than 100 people attended the event, which included 19 community partner organizations such as Westside Family Healthcare, the Henrietta Johnson Medical Center and St. Francis Healthcare.
The Health Ambassadors program, funded by the Delaware Division of Public Health, focuses on high-risk communities, where the ambassadors connect pregnant women and young families with health care, social services, education and home-health programs. They hold dozens of events throughout the year, each reaching as many as 500 people.
Sometimes, their work involves addressing basic needs like food, housing and clothing.
“You’re not going to worry about having a crib if you don’t have a place to live,” Aponte said. “You’re not going to educate yourself about breastfeeding if you can’t feed yourself. It’s all about developing relationships in the community.”
Jozell Pettigrew, 23, is expecting a daughter in July to join the 1-year-old son she has at home.
“You’re not alone,” Pettigrew said, referring to how the event made her feel supported. She attends as many Health Ambassadors events as she can and said she wished she had known about the program with her first child. Now, she’s learned so much more about setting her family on a healthy path — like how her breastfeeding newborn will benefit from her own nutritious diet.
Pettigrew’s daughter will be among the more than 6,000 babies Christiana Care delivers this year.
“Our Health Ambassadors are a critical link between the social determinants of health and the clinical care we provide. Here at Christiana Care, we focus on both,” said Omar Khan, M.D., MHS, FAAFP, physician lead for Primary Care and Community Medicine. “Our Health Ambassadors are part of our front line in responding to these community needs.”
In signing the dream wall, expectant mothers were accepting the safe sleep pledge.
Wrote Pettigrew to her daughter: “Grow up to be strong and healthy.”