In recent years, the number of reported cases of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) has declined, with a 50 percent drop reported since 1990.
While that's good news on the surface, researchers are now hoping to determine whether this is due to true public health improvements, or is simply a difference in how deaths are recorded, by creating a new database.
Details about how the database, called the Sudden Unexpected Infant Death Case Registry, will help researchers answer the questions that surround SIDS are described today in an article by researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
"Right now, when we want to do surveillance and actually monitor trends in SIDS and other infant deaths… we're limited by the data collected [in U.S. mortality records]," said article co-author Carrie Shapiro-Mendoza, a senior scientist at the CDC.
Those records, she explained, can lack information about the circumstances surrounding infant deaths, such as the sleep environment, whether the baby was being put to sleep on his or her back or stomach, whether the baby was in an adult bed and if there was soft bedding where the baby was sleeping.
Shapiro-Mendoza said the new database will build on existing mortality records, adding more about the events surrounding a baby's death, "so it can help inform prevention efforts."
The mysteries of SIDS