Florida Department Of Health Recognizes Shaken Baby Syndrome Awareness

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Shaken Baby Syndrome

The Florida Department of Health joins county health departments and the local offices of Children's Medical Services to educate Floridians about Shaken Baby Syndrome during Shaken Baby Syndrome Awareness Week.

"Shaken Baby Syndrome is one of the most common causes of death by physical abuse to children in Florida," Deputy Secretary of Health for Children's Medical Services (CMS), Joseph J. Chiaro, M.D., FAAP said. "This week and throughout the year, DOH is committed to the health and safety of all children in Florida as we work to educate parents and caregivers to never, ever shake a baby."

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Shaken Baby Syndrome occurs when a frustrated caregiver loses control and violently shakes a young child, causing permanent brain damage or death. The risk of Shaken Baby Syndrome peaks at four months of age, but remains until the child is past their toddler stage. Shaking a baby could lead to blindness, deafness, seizures, paralysis, cerebral palsy and learning or behavioral problems. Providing information about the causes of Shaken Baby Syndrome, especially strategies for caregivers on how to cope with an inconsolable, crying baby is the most effective solution to preventing this form of child abuse.

Through DOH's Infant, Maternal and Reproductive Health Unit, Family Health Services Division and the CMS Division of Prevention and Intervention, information and materials on Shaken Baby Syndrome are provided to parents, caregivers, daycare workers, child protection employees, law enforcement, health care professionals and legal representatives. The Florida State Legislature adopted the Kimberlin West Act in 2002 that mandates all hospitals, birthing facilities and home birth providers to distribute informational brochures from DOH to new parents that clearly explain the dangers of shaking infants and young children, and offer suggestions on how parents can cope with crying.

This year, CMS Division of Prevention and Intervention received a special appropriation to increase public awareness and reduce the occurrence of Shaken Baby Syndrome in Florida. A poster campaign targeting young men between age 17 and 34 is being piloted in Alachua and Escambia counties. Posters designed by the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome spread the message "Rock, Don't Shake" and ask "Are you Tough Enough to be Gentle?" CMS will also distribute magnets to Florida's new families during their first post-hospital visit which will help parents understand what to do when their new baby will not stop crying. In addition, CMS will offer training for hospital nurses and DOH staff on how to teach parents to safely deal with a baby when he/she will not stop crying.

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