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Dec/Jan 2007Vol. 7, No. 9Preventing Shaken Baby Syndrome

A hospital-based parent education program has shown compelling results in reducing the incidence of abusive head injuries among infant and toddlers. Materials are shared with parents by nurses before the parents check out of the hospital with their new baby. The program materials include an informational brochure and a videotape that describe the dangers of shaking a baby and how best to handle infant crying. The program also asks parents to sign a commitment statement saying that they understand the materials.

The program was first tested in Western New York State, where abusive head injuries were reduced by 47 percent after the program. Building on that success, the program was expanded throughout the rest of New York. Phase II added a second commitment form for parents, which they signed at their first pediatrician visit. This has resulted in an additional 9 percent reduction in the incidence of shaken baby syndrome.

Other States are now considering or implementing similar programs. Pennsylvania began statewide implementation in 2003, and the chief researcher, Dr. Mark Dias, recently reported similar outstanding results in that State. Hospitals in Connecticut and Ohio, among others, are also testing hospital-based prevention methods.

Advantages of the program are its low cost, ease of administration, and effectiveness in reaching fathers, who are historically the most likely perpetrators of violent shaking.

To read the original New York study, "Preventing Abusive Head Trauma Among Infants and Young Children: A Hospital-Based, Parent Education Program," by Mark Dias et al., which appeared in Pediatrics, visit the journal's website:

To find out more about shaken baby syndrome, visit the website for the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome: