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Understanding Sleep-Related Infant Deaths

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Publication Date: March 2010

Publisher(s): Illinois Violent Death Reporting System

Author(s): Jennifer Cartland

Topic: Culture and religion (Culture and civilization)
Economics (Economic relations)
Health (Health services for low income people)
Justice (Crime and criminals)

Keywords: low-income families; African American infants ; infant death syndrome

Coverage: United States Illinois


This study shows a significant racial and geographic disparity in the rate of sleep-related infant deaths in Illinois. In Cook County, African American infants are 12 times more likely than White infants to die from sleep-related causes. Outside of Cook County, African American infants are twice as likely to die from sleep-related causes as are White infants. It also found that White infants who reside outside of Cook County are four times more likely than White infants in Cook County to die from sleep-related causes.

Sleep-related deaths include sudden infant death syndrome, unintentional suffocation in bed and those in which the cause was undetermined but investigations found that the infant died during sleep.

When researchers took a closer look at the undetermined deaths, they found an even more striking racial disparity: African American infants were almost 17 times more likely to die of unknown sleep-related causes. In most cases, the infants had been sleeping in unsafe situations that put them at risk, such as being placed in a bed with a parent.


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