Every year, some 3,500 Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths (SUIDs), or deaths among infants under 1 year of age that happen suddenly, occur in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The American Indian/Alaska Native population has the highest rate of SUIDs of any racial/ethnic group in the United States. For 2010-2013, the SUID death rate among AI/AN infants was 190.5 per 100,000 live births. The SUIDs rate for AI/AN infants was over twice that of non-Hispanic white infants (84.4) of more than three times that of the total United States population.
The International Association for Indigenous Aging, a nonprofit working to improve the health and well-being of AI/AN populations, implemented the 1,000 Grandmothers Project to engage Native elders (specifically grandmothers) in reducing the rate of SUIDs by educating and mentoring young Native parents and future parents about safe sleep practices for infants during traditional activities.
The 1,000 Grandmothers Project, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was conducted for the Michigan Public Health Institute, and in partnership with four tribes: the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, Hannahville Indian Community, and the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians.
Courtesy International Association for Indigenous Aging
The intergenerational 1,000 Grandmothers Project used an evidence-based and culturally appropriate approach to aid in reducing the disparity in Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths SUIDs) rates among the AI/AN population.
During mentoring sessions, grandmothers shared their own child-raising experiences while educating young mothers on safe sleep practices. The project reached some 200 participants from the four tribes.
On August 18, the 1,000 Grandmothers Project was showcased by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through the Office of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention.
“This is the first Native program to earn national recognition for Healthy People 2020,” said International Association for Indigenous Aging executive director Dave Baldridge in a press release. “Many innovative Indian health projects show great promise, and we’re proud to be one of them.”