Saving Babies and Children’s Lives by Eliminating Sudden and Unexpected Infant Deaths [Interview][Transcript]

Leanne Raven_SIDS_and_KidsGuest: Leanne Raven
Presenter: Wayne Bucklar
Guest Bio: Leanne is the CEO of SIDS and Kids, a health promotion charity in Australia dedicated to saving the lives of babies and children during pregnancy, birth, infancy and childhood and supporting bereaved families. Leanne is passionate about primary health care, driving improvements in population health, strengthening the consumer experience and transforming systems and cultures. Managing change, working within organisations to strengthen capacity and building purpose driven and innovative organisations is her key focus. Her work in this area in the not for profit sector was recently acknowledged by the Telstra Business Women’s Awards where Leanne was the 2013 Victorian Winner in the Business Innovation category.

Segment overview: In today’s Health Supplier Segment, know more about the advocacy of SIDS and Kids as we are joined by their CEO Leanne Raven. They are a high profile and well respected national not-for-profit organisation with a highly successful history in health promotion, bereavement support, advocacy and research. They are located in Melbourne and have offices in each state and territory of Australia. SIDS and Kids works to find answers for parents by funding and supporting vital research into stillbirth, SIDS and safe sleeping practices. Through evidence based community education, they aim to prevent these deaths and advocate for and support bereaved families.


Health Professional Radio

Wayne Bucklar: You’re listening to Health Professional Radio. My name is Wayne Bucklar and today my guest is Leanne Raven, CEO of SIDS and Kids who’s joining me from Melbourne in Australia. Leanne Welcome to Health Professional Radio.

Leanne Raven: Thank you Wayne, and hello.

W: Now I have to put aside my prior knowledge here because I have a really good idea of what it is that you do, but some of our listeners may not. Tell us what it is that SIDS and Kids does.

L: Well SIDS and Kids is a health promotion charity. And what we do is really threefold – we’re about saving a lives of babies, and children, and supporting bereaved families. So we run health promotion programs or public health programs, we provide services nationally for families who’ve experienced the death of a baby or a child, and we also invest and fund research into the areas of interest.

W: Now Leanne, SIDS is “sudden infant death syndrome,” I guess most of our listeners would know that. But you’ve extended this beyond the infant stage am I correct in that assumption?

L: Yes. In the support area, we actually support families who have experienced the death of a baby or child during pregnancy, birth, infancy, and childhood. And it’s sort of a niche market in a sense because it’s those families who’ve experienced sudden and unexpected death. Now people can argue that death is unexpected when you’re talking about children, but it means that we really support those families who have experienced impregnancy – it may be stillbirth, in infancy of course it’s sudden unexpected death in infancy or SIDS. And then in the older age group it’s say if you’re looking to 1 to 4, the most common sudden and unexpected deaths are accidental ones. So they’re poisonings, drownings, road trauma those sorts of things. And then if you moved to adolescence, it is youth suicide.

W: And you moved through to adolescence age group?

L: Look, we don’t put our resources too much in that area but we don’t turn families away. You know anyone who has experienced the death of a child, if we are not the best support then we find other support for them in the community.

W: Yes, I see. And it is an area that is difficult to deal with, traumatic for everyone involved and which absolutely needs the support of an organization like yours because otherwise it sits alone in our society.

L: Exactly. And one of the things we don’t want anyone to do is to think they are alone through this experience. And that can include anyone who’s impacted by the death, so it could be other family members, siblings, grandparents, or it could even extend further to health professionals, first line responders so the ambulance workers, the police. If you ask any of those community groups, “What would be a very stressful event for you?” And many of them would say that actually having to go to a family home where a baby has dead is really high up there. So we really like to think that we’re here to support anyone who might be impacted.

W: Now Leanne many of our listeners today will be clinicians of one kind or another. I guess about 95% of people who are listening will either be working in acute care, or in aged care, doctors, nurses, allied health professionals, medical scientists – all those people who get around the hospital or an aged care facility. Is there a message for them to take home today as a result of having this chat on air?

L: Absolutely. I mean most of the community and that includes all those groups that you mentioned know “Red Nose Day.” And even if they don’t know what SIDS and Kids does, everyone knows about Red Nose Day. And because Red Nose Day is our major fund raiser there and it’s the happy side of what we do when we get out there in the community. But I think in terms of clinicians, it’s really important that they have a good understanding about “Sleep Safe, My Baby” help promotion program so that if they are able to provide information to their patients or clients in the community, then that’s really helpful. We have an online education program around that as well which you can access on the website. And the other thing that we’d really like them to have top of mind is the bereavement services side. So they may come across a family who are in hospital for instance and their child has died, a young child has died from a sudden illness, it could be cardiac illness or anything like that, and to actually mention to them that they may be able to speak with us at SIDS and Kids and we’re very happy to help families through that difficult process.

W: And so is there any referral process needed Leanne? People who are looking to access your support service, how do they do that?

L: Well they can refer. We have a 1300 number which is a national number and that’s 1300 308 307. Clinicians could give that number to families or they could ring with the family’s permission, they could ring that number and refer in to our services that way.

W: Lovely. Leanne my favorite question in every interview. In every area of activity, in every business, in every charities sphere of work, there are misconceptions. What’s the biggest misconception about your work that drive you nuts and keep you awake at night?

L: I think we probably touched on it already, and you mentioned it in the first sentence Wayne when you said that your work mainly involved SIDS and not the other thing. So I think one of the things that we find is the common misconception is around that area, that we only support families who’ve experienced SIDS. Now we’ve had tremendous success in our public health program and reducing the incidence of SIDS occurring, reduced by 80% in this country over the last 30 years and we continue to educate all health professionals and anyone working with children around that program so that that never rises. But people don’t understand the other side of what we do and supporting families who have a sudden unexpected death at any time. And I think that’s probably got a lot to do with our name, SIDS and Kids, the “and kids” is meant to embrace all the others. And that’s something that we’re actually working on at the moment and we’re considering going forward with a different name in the future so that people understand who we are and what we do.

W: Leanne let’s hope that today we can help with that misconception just a little bit. And congratulations on that extraordinary figure for the reduction of SIDS. I didn’t realize of the success had been anywhere near that grade in reducing the incidence of death. I’ll just mentioned again that phone number 1300 308 307 that was the Australian-wide number for people looking to get in touch with you or the website at Leanne thank you for your time.

L: Thank you very much Wayne for the opportunity. This has been great.

W: Our pleasure. And it’s been a pleasure talking to you, I always love when I talk to people who are passionate of what they do. Your passion and commitment comes through in your voice, so thank you very much for that. And thank you for your time today.

L: Thank you.

W: If you just missed my conversation with Leanne Raven CEO of SIDS and Kids, the good news is we have a transcript on our website. We also have an audio archive on both YouTube and SoundCloud where you can listen to the interview for yourself. All of those resources are available at You’re listening to Health Professional Radio, my name is Wayne Bucklar.

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