Richmond County has the second highest rate of SIDS death for African-American babies in GA. Why?

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Wednesday, June 12, 2019
News 12 at 6 O’Clock/NBC at 7

RICHMOND COUNTY, GA (WRDW/WAGT) – African-American babies are dying in Richmond County, and many of their deaths could have been prevented.

As it turns out, Richmond County is also second in Georgia for the most sudden infant death syndrome deaths among African-American infants.

There's a story about a new mother in Richmond County. She's home from the hospital. She's excited. She's also exhausted. She and her newborn drift off to sleep together, but only one wakes up.

Coroner Mark Bowen has heard this story too many times.

“Devastated,” Bowen said. “Devastated.

Our I-Team tracked every child death in Richmond County over the last three years. We discovered bed sharing is the single most cause of death in the county -- more than premature deaths and homicides.

According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, the majority of the infants who died because of bed sharing were African-American.

“Poverty does have something to do with it,” Renee McCabe of the Children’s Hospital of Georgia said.

McCabe says some families can't afford to buy a Pack ‘N Play or crib for their baby. A quarter of the people in Richmond County live below the poverty level.

“We do classes here and educate families, and if they're on government assistance, they receive a Pack ‘N Play at the end of the class, and they often say they would not afford a crib otherwise,” McCabe said.

Other parents, McCabe says, aren't aware the dangers bed sharing even exist.

"It could be suffocation,” McCabe said. The baby rolls over on their stomach and they're inhaling the carbon monoxide, which causes them to stop breathing. It can be a parent rolling over or another sibling sleeping in the bed."

These preventable deaths are why she teaches new parents the ABC’s of safe sleeping.

"The A is sleeping alone not having anyone in bed with an infant. The B is placing them on their back and the C is that they have their own crib or bassinet,” McCabe said.

Five infants have died every year in Richmond County over the last three years.

"We try to walk it through with them,” McCabe said. “We try to find the answers to the many questions they have."

The state does not differentiate between bed sharing deaths and SIDS. Richmond County does, which are the numbers we used in our investigation.

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