A culturally appropriate safe sleeping tool could reduce SIDS for First Nations’ families

The Pepi Pod program was successful when administered in South Australia, according to new research. Image Source: Getty

A program focused on delivering safe-sleeping practices for infants in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities could reduce the incidents of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) or sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI).

The Pepi Pod program, studied in collaboration with Charles Sturt University, Flinders University, SA Health, The Aboriginal Health Council of SA, and the Women’s & Children’s Health Network (WCHN), was trialled amongst 70 First Nations families in South Australia.

Described as “a plastic box that has been created to safely sleep infants either in or nearby the parents’ bed,” the “Pod” is used by families to keep infants close while allowing for space to breathe.

Research suggests that First Nations infants are “three to four times more likely to die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) or sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI) than non-First Nations infants.”

The study found that more than 91% of the participating families found that the Pod “supported safe sleeping and was beneficial to their family unit overall”, while 97% “want to keep the Pod to use with their next baby.”

Professor Julian Grant, Associate Dean (Research) and Professor of Nursing in the Charles Sturt Faculty of Science and Health, said that the Pod functioned as a “tool” to enable culturally appropriate discussion.

“The Pod was more like a talking stick in that it enabled families to share safe sleep messages between generations and enabled health professionals to demonstrate respect for cultural practices. The Pod served as a jumping-off point to have a broader conversation around safe sleeping practices in general,” Professor Grant said.

Going forward, the Professor said devices such as the Pod were crucial if mainstream health services wanted to create a trusting relationship with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients.

“Mainstream health services need to adapt to centralise First Nations ways of knowing and being. First Nations’ ways of communicating need to be validated which builds respect and trust, as trust is at the core of any engagement,” Professor Grant said.

“We must pay parallel attention to First Nations’ ways of knowing and being in mainstream healthcare if we are to increase the effectiveness of mainstream health services when it comes to First Nations people.”

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