One of the top priorities of the Tennessee Department of Health is to reduce the state’s infant mortality rate (a measure of how many babies die before reaching their first birthday). TDH has discovered that 20 percent of all infant deaths in Tennessee are due to unsafe sleep practices. As part of this effort to save babies’ lives, Oak Ridge Police Department is partnering with the Tennessee Department of Health in the effort to reduce infant mortality by participating in the Direct On Scene Education, or DOSE program. 

DOSE is an innovative program utilizing first responders to educate families about safe sleep for all infants.  First responders at the Oak Ridge Police Department will be educating all households with pregnant women or infants after they respond to the immediate emergency.  Our police officers will be equipped with safe sleep kits to provide to families.  These kits contain educational materials to teach the caregivers about safe sleep environments for infants.  

“From this point on, whenever we come into contact with a baby less than one year of age or a pregnant mother, we will give them a safe sleep kit and educate. Infants should sleep Alone, on their Back and in a Crib.  As a department committed to safety, we need to make sure parents know these simple rules,” said Chief James Akagi. 

Although SIDS numbers have decreased in Tennessee, other preventable sleep-related deaths are on the rise.  Causes of other sleep-related deaths include suffocation, such as when an adult rolls over on an infant or an infant is smothered by pillows or blankets.  In 2012, 121 sleep-related deaths occurred in Tennessee. In 2012, the infant mortality rate in Tennessee was 7.2, meaning that 7.2 babies out of every 1,000 born did not reach their first birthday.  Infant mortality rates in Tennessee and the United States lag far behind many other countries, including less-developed countries. 

Safe sleep practices can prevent sleep-related deaths.  The Oak Ridge Police Department promotes the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations that infants should:

* Always be placed on their backs to sleep

* Sleep alone in a crib or bassinet, although the crib or bassinet can be in the same room as an adult caregiver

* Not have bumper pads, blankets, stuffed animals, toys or pets in their cribs

* Sleep on a firm crib mattress with the mattress covered only by a fitted sheet

The Oak Ridge Police Department is committed to the health and safety of all Tennesseans and is excited to partner with the Tennessee Department of Health in this effort to reduce infant deaths. 

For more information on sleep-related deaths, visit the TDH website at http://safesleep.tn.gov.  

Media contact: Candice Brogan at (865) 425-3546 or cbrogan@oakridgetn.gov.