Background: Before reunification, the post-neonatal mortality rate was lower in East Germany than in West Germany. Moreover, the incidence of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) was much lower in the East.
Methods: Mortality data on sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) from West and East Germany since 1980 as well as post-neonatal mortality data for both states since 1970 were examined. 95% Confidence intervals were calculated for the rates. Witnesses from the former East Germany who were involved at the time were also interviewed and archives were searched.
Results: We found that as early as 1972 active monitoring of infant and child mortality rates in East Germany had shown that the prone sleeping position was dangerous for infants: the post-neonatal mortality rate was approximately 1 per 1000 live births lower in East than in West Germany during the 20 years before reunification. In contrast, in the West, prone sleeping was only discovered to be a risk factor for SIDS in the early 1990s.
Conclusions: Active monitoring is an effective tool in the early detection of risk factors and serves to prevent unnecessary deaths.
- active monitoring
- sudden infant death syndrome
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Published Online First 6 January 2006
Competing interests: none declared