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Ministry of Health releases three reports on Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy

News article

31 May 2022

Today the Ministry has released three reports on Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI).

SUDI is the leading cause of preventable mortality in New Zealand infants. Māori and Pacific infants have consistently higher rates of SUDI compared to non-Māori and non-Pacific infants.

In 2020, the Ministry commissioned research to better understand the reasons behind the number of babies dying from SUDI.

This report sets out the background and findings from analysis of 64 infant deaths between July 2019 – June 2020 of likely SUDI cases. 

The Ministry then formed a SUDI prevention Expert Advisory Group to make recommendations as a result of the 2020 research. At the same time, the Ministry commissioned a Kaupapa Maori evaluation of the National SUDI Prevention Programme looking at how to better address inequities.

The Ministry welcomes the findings of the three reports into SUDI and recommendations for changes to improve the National SUDI Prevention Programme.

‘Ultimately we all want to work together to see a significant decline in the number of babies dying from SUDI,’ says the Ministry’s Chief Clinical Advisor of child and youth health, Dr Tim Jellyman.

The Ministry has been working closely with communities to avoid SUDI, including:

  • working with Hāpai te Hauora to reprioritise resources within their national SUDI Prevention Coordination Service (NSPCS) 2020/21 funding, to support SUDI prevention within holistic hapūtanga (pregnancy) services
  • developing a diagrammatic SUDI causal and prevention pathway that identifies gaps in the systemic, health, and social environments and where they need to be addressed to reduce SUDI rates (refer to Appendix 2).

‘In addition, interim Health New Zealand is continuing to address SUDI prevention issues through the following actions:

‘Exploring opportunities where SUDI prevention messages can be included or enhanced in the WCTO Enhanced Support Pilots, and how SUDI prevention can be integrated in the proposed DPMC-led early years work,’ says Dr Jellyman.

‘The number of babies and infants in New Zealand who die from SUDI each year is not declining, and social inequities mean that the rate of SUDI is higher for babies who are Māori, or who live in areas of high deprivation.’

‘Interim Health New Zealand and the Interim Māori Health Authority are working together closely on the early years programme, which will include integrating SUDI prevention into programmes that support whanau/families, particularly their safety in the early years.’

‘The programme will include codesign with whānau and communities of early years models that deliver on what matters to whānau.’

Background to the reports

  • The Ministry commissioned research in 2020 to better understand the reasons behind the number of babies dying from SUDI and identify improvements to the Ministry-led National SUDI Prevention Programme. This report sets out the background and findings from analysis of 64 infant deaths between July 2019 – June 2020 of likely SUDI cases. (It’s important to note that the data used are provisional. Confirmation takes longer for some of these cases given the coronial process. SUDI numbers can fluctuate markedly year on year.)
  • After receiving and reviewing the report, the Ministry formed a SUDI prevention Expert Advisory Group (EAG) to develop recommendations for change, based on data and information presented in the SUDI Report 
  • In August 2021 the EAG delivered a report to the Ministry with recommendations for a way forward, SUDI Prevention in New Zealand: The Case for Hauora – a wellbeing approach.
  • At the same time the Ministry commissioned a kaupapa Māori evaluation to explore the effectiveness of the NSPP and how it can be improved to better address inequities. The report titled KIA PUAWAI: National SUDI Prevention Programme was commissioned from Te Werohau – Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiarangi.

More information

  • The National SUDI Prevention Programme (NSPP) was established in 2017. It emerged from the Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) Prevention programme in the 1990s. An annual investment of $5.1 million is allocated to the NSPP which is apportioned across all 20 district health boards (DHBs), DHB contracted regional coordinators, and a national coordination service provided by Hāpai te Hauora.
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