Statewide Studies Aiming to Prevent Abusive Head Trauma

Article excerpt

SAN DIEGO -- Two federally funded studies are underway to test the effectiveness of abusive head trauma prevention efforts in Pennsylvania and in North Carolina.

The studies, which received funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in October 2007, represent "an opportunity to do some useful intervention research in shaken baby syndrome or abusive head trauma, where the CDC can add value to the research that's already out there," Janet Saul, Ph.D., said at a conference sponsored by Rady Children's Hospital, San Diego.

The first study, led by Dr. Mark S. Dias, a pediatric neurosurgeon at Pennsylvania State University, Hershey, will test the efficacy of a hospital-based intervention received by all parents of newborns in the state. The intervention became statewide in 2006 and will be evaluated through 2010. Components include a video and brochure about shaken baby syndrome, discussion about the topic with a clinician, posters, and a commitment statement for new parents to sign.

"Some people think that the commitment statement used in this intervention is that 'I promise not to shake my baby,' but that's not the case," said Dr. Saul, a psychologist who is chief of the prevention development and evaluation branch in the division of violence prevention at the CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Atlanta.

She described the commitment document as "an acknowledgement that the parent had received and under-stood the information."

Parents of newborns receive four key messages: that crying is normal; there are ways to calm a baby; there are ways to calm yourself if you're starting to get frustrated; and that it's important to select other appropriate caregivers.

In another part of the study, half of the counties in Central Pennsylvania will be randomized to receive a "booster" session for parents who come to pediatric offices for 2-, 4-, and 6-month immunization visits; parents in the other counties won't receive such a session. Components of that intervention will include a "crying card" containing the same four key messages as the hospital intervention and information on swaddling an infant.

Research questions include the following: Does the program prevent infant deaths and emergency room visits caused by abusive head trauma? Is the program more effective when parents also receive "booster sessions" at their primary care provider offices? …