ABSTRACT: New Zealand has suffered a very high mortality rate from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), also known as "crib death" or "cot death." This prompted the development of the New Zealand Cot Death Study, a case-controlled epidemiological study. The preliminary findings of this study identified three risk behaviors potentially amenable to modification: prone sleeping position of the infant, maternal smoking, and not breastfeeding. These findings were discussed with the major stakeholders of child health. The Department of Health coordinated the development of a health education SIDS prevention program. Since the Help Prevent Cot Death Programme was launched in February 1991, the rate of total infant deaths, which was 10.1/1,000 live births in 1987, fell to 7.6/1,000 live births in 1991. The SIDS rate fell from 4.2/1,000 in 1987 to 2.5/1,000 in 1991. It is suggested that the described health education program had a significant influence on this improvement in infant survival.
Health education quarterly 06/1995; 22(2):162-71.