Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Jags Star Is Helping Protect Infants; Eugene Monroe Will Be Part of Softball Game to Promote New Safety Law

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Jags Star Is Helping Protect Infants; Eugene Monroe Will Be Part of Softball Game to Promote New Safety Law

Article excerpt

Byline: Beth Reese Cravey

When he's on the football field, Jacksonville Jaguar Eugene Monroe is an offensive tackle, blocking the other team from getting to the guy with the ball.

But in his time off the field, he is helping protect Northeast Florida babies from sudden infant death syndrome and other sleep-related deaths - in part by hosting a charity softball game Sunday at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville.

Monroe is working with the Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition to reduce infant mortality and promote a new state law that requires parents of newborns to receive "safe sleep education" and related information before being released from hospitals or birthing centers.

"I am a father myself and my wife and I know how important it is for parents to be given the right tools and education so they can have a healthy and happy baby," he said.

SIDS and other sleep-related problems are the leading causes of death among infants under the age of 1 nationwide and in Northeast Florida, where 127 babies died before their first birthday in 2012, according to the coalition. In the African-American community, babies die at twice the rate of white babies.

The new law, which took effect July 1, prompted the Florida Association of Healthy Start Coalitions and the Florida SIDS Alliance to partner on the Safe to Sleep Initiative that provides training and education to health professionals and parents to increase public awareness.

The Northeast Florida coalition's goal is "empowering community members to act as lay health advocates in their own neighborhoods," said Dawn Clarke, the coalition's interim executive director.

The coalition was organized in 1992 as part of a statewide network of community-based organizations to reduce Florida infant mortality and improve the lives of pregnant women and their families. The group is governed by a volunteer board that allocates state funding and oversees local agencies that serve pregnant women and families of newborns in Baker, Clay, Duval, Nassau and St. Johns counties.

The goal of the charity softball game - the fourth annual Rounds at the Grounds - is to support the coalition's efforts. …

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