Reinstate Funding for Safe Sleep devices in New Zealand
This week a New Zealand Herald investigation revealed the Ministry of Health has restricted the reach of life-saving baby sleep devices- pepi-pods and wahakura, and cut vital funding to this program.
Every year, 50 Kiwi babies die unexpectedly in their sleep, a rate that identifies New Zealand as one of the worst in the industrialised world for sudden infant deaths.
Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI) includes all deaths that occur in the first year of life that are sudden and unexpected. They include accidental suffocation, which accounts for up more than half of these deaths when babies are unintentionally suffocated by their parents while co-sleeping, which is a traditional practice in Māori and Pacific families.
Babies that are born pre-term, underweight, or who have been exposed to cigarette smoke during pregnancy are also particularly at-risk because their arousal mechanisms are not as strong.
While Maori babies represent only about 20% of the population, they make up 65% of SUDI cases across the country.
In 2006, Hastings GP, Dr David Tipene-Leach, created the wahakura, a woven basket to give babies a safe space to sleep while sleeping in their parent’s beds. This was to attempt to reduce the rate of Maori accidental asphyxiation deaths. Pepi-pods are also a plastic alternative with the same function.
Since there implementation, the device has been demonstrated to be revolutionary; the Maori community has embraced it, and leading SUDI experts have endorsed its use. For the first time in 16 years, new research shows Maori infant mortality rates have started to fall in regions with the highest number of pepi-pods or wahakura.
Despite this, the Ministry of Health has restricted the reach of these devices and cut funding to support the distribution of these devices. Last year, according to ministry documents, the Government dished out $800,000 of funding for strategies to cut SUDI rates, but the funding came with one condition: do not use the money to buy pepi-pods or wahakura.
Green Party Māori Development spokesperson Marama Davidson stated this week: “The Government is turning its back on a solution that could save lives and allow Māori and Pacific families the opportunity to continue their traditional way of life and keep their babies safe.”
“By denying families wahakura and pepi-pods, the Government is stigmatising the traditional parenting practice of co-sleeping and marginalising families who are doing the right thing by their culture.”
Please sign this petition now to ask the Minister of Health Jonathan Coleman to provide funding for this life-saving infant sleeping device.
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