Community Action Network Promotes Safe Sleep To Reduce SIDS

October is National SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) Awareness Month. Each year, there are nearly 3,500 sudden unexpected infant deaths (SUID) in the United States. Of those deaths, about 800 are due to accidental suffocation and strangulation in bed.

In an effort to reduce the number of SIDS deaths, the Community Action Network, of which EveryStep is a partner, has created a Safe Sleep toolkit to educate the community on the importance of safe sleep. 

Below we explore the CAN and its goals by speaking with Lanette Nelson, Healthy Start manager with EveryStep. 

What is the Community Action Network? 

The Community Action Network (CAN) is a collaboration of organizations, agencies, programs, and individuals in central Iowa focused on improving the lives of people in our community. 

Through the development of educational tools and resources, CAN helps providers, caregivers, parents, and other community members understand best practices in caring for children and families.

Who is involved in CAN? 

A number of important community organizations and agencies can be found on the CAN roster, including: Blank Children's Hospital UnityPoint Health, Drake University Head Start, PRAMS, WIC, Lutheran Services in Iowa, Orchard Place, EveryStep, The Salvation Army, Young Women's Resource Center and Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc. 

How did the idea for CAN come about? 

The primary funding source for the Des Moines Healthy Start Project -- Health Resources and Services Administration -- charged EveryStep with with creating a Community Action Network. 

There are 101 Healthy Start sites across the country and each site is required to have a CAN. 

CAN will choose a different initiative each year to educate community members on. Why safe sleep this year? 

Through community safe sleep education, CAN members hope to decrease the number of deaths related to SIDS and Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID), especially with the disproportionately higher rate of black infant deaths at three-times higher than white infant deaths. 

With that in mind, CAN has developed a safe sleep assessment tool and information for educators and community members working with pregnant families and caregivers.  

Why is safe sleep an important message to get out? 

We want babies to live. From April to June 2020 there were seven infant deaths in Polk County and five of the seven deaths occurred in unsafe sleep environments. 


What are the tools and educational information CAN has developed? 

The toolkit includes a custom-designed screening tool that can be used to help identify risk factors in homes and childcare settings and serves as a way to introduce safe sleep conversations with caregivers. 

The kit also contains a wealth of educational resources and handouts, including some resources in Spanish. A list of community resources is also provided should families need additional support.


How is CAN providing this information to community organizations and families? 

Resources are available at, including education, the toolkit,   and offers from various CAN networks.  

In light of COVID, how has CAN worked to get this important information out? 

Education is recorded and sent to those interested, including a recording that walks through the comprehensive assessment tool and toolkit.  The toolkit binder can be either mailed or dropped off to the interested organization as either an electronic version or a hard copy. 

Does CAN have another initiative earmarked for 2021? 

CAN’s next focus will address Black Maternal Mortality.  For updates, visit the CAN web page and/or email, if you would like to get involved.