First Candle Awarded HHS Grant to Address Structural Racism in Infant Safe Sleep Education

Non-Profit to Lead Three-year Community-Based Project

Aimed at Reducing Black Infant Mortality Rates in Georgia Region

October 14, 2022 – New Canaan, CT –  First Candle, the national non-profit organization committed to ending Sudden Unexpected Infant Death has been awarded a $385,000 grant by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for a three-year project to assess infant safe sleep policies with regard to structural racism, and develop community-based practices designed to reduce Black infant sleep-related mortality in the Atlanta, Georgia region.

The grant was issued through the department’s Office of Minority Health (OMH) and is part of a total award of more than $4.8 million in grants to 10 organizations under its Community-Driven Approaches to Address Factors Contributing to Structural Racism in Public Health initiative. Grant recipient projects range across seven states, including California, Connecticut, Indiana, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, and South Carolina.

First Candle will be working with the Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of Georgia (HMHBGA) to form a multi-sector team of government officials, community advocates and health care providers to review national and state policies and practices surrounding infant safe-sleep that might adversely impact families of Color. Upon completion of the review the team, together with First Candle and HMHBGA, will develop programs designed to improve maternal and infant care, increase safer infant sleep practices, and strengthen support for families during prenatal and postnatal periods.

The program will be evaluated by the Morehouse School of Medicine’s Center for Maternal Health Equity and results will be disseminated to community partners and through national networks to support the development of new local, state, and national policies.

Georgia has the 11th highest rate of Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID) in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). SUID includes sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed (ASSB), and death by unknown cause before a child’s first birthday. According to the 2020 Georgia child fatality report, 59.5% of SUID-related infant deaths were among Blacks, a disparate impact since Black infants account for 35.3% of live births in Georgia.

“HMHBGA has been committed to improving the health and well-being of moms and babies since our founding almost 50 years ago,” said Ky Lindberg, Executive Director. “We are excited to embark on this new endeavor with First Candle to strengthen safe sleep practices in communities that experience higher incidents of SUID. This is particularly important as families try to understand the updated American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations while also navigating the many stressors that have only been exacerbated by COVID 19.”

“We’ve been a passionate supporter of Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition of Georgia for many years.  When we became aware of this grant, we knew that we could find no better partner than HMHBGA,” said Alison Jacobson, Executive Director and CEO of First Candle. “Their dedication to improving health outcomes for moms and babies is perfectly aligned with our mission to decrease the rates of Sudden Unexpected Infant Death and to support families.

“This grant will provide us with the opportunity to better understand the challenges families face in adopting recommendations by the AAP and government agencies and create viable solutions to finally reduce the rates of infant deaths.”

About First Candle: First Candle, based in New Canaan, Connecticut, is a 501c(3) committed ending Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths through education and community outreach. It also provides bereavement support for families who have lost a child due to sleep-related infant deaths, stillbirth, and miscarriage. SIDS remains the leading cause of death for babies one month to one year of age.