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What is SBS?

Can we prevent it?

by Staff   7.10.2007

We believe we can.

SBS prevention initiatives in North America have been around for several years. They are initiated by professionals, politicians and parents or grandparents of victims. SBS has been the focus of countless news stories and many child abuse networks. For years the focus has been on creating awareness for shaken baby syndrome by highlighting the horrendous price that is paid by the victims, their families and the perpetrators. So far this method alone does not seem to be decreasing the incidence rates; however, there are two current programs that may assist with change.

Since 1998, Dr. Mark Dias has implemented a hospital-based intervention in western New York State. His model has utilized a hospital teaching environment for the following stated reasons:

1) Parents have the highest risk of becoming SBS perpetrators.
2) Infants have the highest risk of being SBS victims during the first few months of life.
3) Childbirth provides universal contact between parents and medical staff.
4) Parents educated with practical information are likely to share it with others.
5) Research on adult learning suggests that adults are more open to information when it gives them coping tips for life-changing events.

Dr. Dias developed a process (steps, not content) model that includes parents receiving a pamphlet on shaken baby syndrome, viewing a film (in this case Portrait of Promise), having nurses suggest ways to handle persistent infant crying and signing a commitment statement. Dr. Dias reported that his project reached 69% of all mothers on the hospital wards and a 47% decrease in SBS incidence was achieved in the area. (Dias et al 2005). We know from other projects that maternity nurses are sometimes hesitant to show films like the one above to new parents, because of its graphic nature. The new prevention initiative by our program hopes to improve on this by implementing the Period of PURPLE Crying educational materials.

Prevent Shaken Baby Syndrome BC is implementing a maternity and public health based prevention program utilizing the empirically tested Period of PURPLE Crying educational materials. These materials have been co-authored by Ronald G. Barr, MDCM FRCPC and The National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome in Utah, USA. This program focuses on infant crying, especially inconsolable crying and its connection to shaken baby syndrome using a child development model.

The materials address three basic concepts:
1) The new evidence that early infant crying and even colic is a normal part of infant development;
2) The frustration over early infant crying is the most common trigger for shaking an infant or child; and
3) Shaking an infant or child is very dangerous.

The Period of PURPLE Crying delivers its message through two methods: an 11-page booklet sub-titled "Did you know your infant would cry like this?" and a 10-minute DVD.

These materials:
are attractive to parents of newborns on the first day of life;
provide a clear, memorable, meaningful, attractive and positive message;
provide information at a grade 3 level;
are multicultural - currently translated into French (Quebecois), Punjabi, Spanish (Mexican) Cantonese, Korean, Vietnamese, Japanese, Portuguese (Brazilian) and Somali;
are educational and valuable to and for parents; and
are economical so that each parent receives a copy to take home to review and share with others caring for their infant.

Implementation for this program will deliver the information in three doses: maternity services, midwifery clinics, public health units and through a public education campaign.

We believe that in order to achieve a long term sustained reduction in the number of SBS cases, there must be a cultural change in the way society understands the meaning of increased crying in early infancy and the danger of shaking in response to the frustration to that crying.

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