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First Year Cleveland puts infant-mortality message in Popeyes customers’ bags

Posted September 06, 2019 in Articles

Author: Ginger Christ, The Plain Dealer

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Local Popeyes restaurants are serving a side of education along with their fried chicken in Cuyahoga and Summit counties.

Fifteen of the area fast-food restaurants are distributing postcards, containing information on how to protect infants while they sleep, in every trademark “P” bag of food. That means thousands of postcards are getting out into the community daily, said Vanessa Whiting, owner of A.E.S. Management Corp., the franchise group for the local Popeyes.

The postcards are part of the public awareness phase of the Safe Sleep action group, one of 11 such groups that make up the city-county infant-mortality initiative First Year Cleveland. The Safe Sleep group has members from area hospital systems, including MetroHealth, the Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals and St. Vincent.

The cards offer a simple message of what are known as the ABCDs of safe sleep: alone, on their back, in a clutter-free crib, don’t smoke.

“We’re really working to create an awareness campaign to make it simple and concise so that people get it,” said Rita Andolsen, director of transformation communications and community engagement at MetroHealth and part of the Safe Sleep action group. “Many times, I think, when people are faced with a crisis like infant mortality or opioids, they feel helpless because it feels so big. This allows people an opportunity to do.”

Cuyahoga County has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country. Last year, the infant mortality rate, which is the number of infants who die before their first birthday, was 8.43 per 1,000 live births in the county, according to the Cuyahoga County Board of Health. In 2018, there were 117 infant deaths in the county.

Through July 2019, the county infant mortality rate was 9.07, according to preliminary data.

“We’re not preaching to anyone. People, if they have the information and the knowledge, they’ll use it,” said Whiting, who also is the chair of the MetroHealth Board of Trustees.

Char Darlington, general manager of the Fairfax Popeyes, said things have changed a lot since she had her four children. Back then, babies were put on their stomachs instead of their backs. Now a grandmother of a 1-year-old boy, Darlington advised her employees to simply tell customers, “There’s a message in your bag.”

“If it saves one baby, it’s worth it,” she said.

Derrick Grant and Muath Snobar, materials management employees at the Cleveland Clinic, pulled out the postcards as they sat down to lunch Thursday in the Popeyes on Carnegie Avenue in Fairfax. The messaging, they said, wasn’t what they expected to see, but they were open to it.

“Some people will toss it, but we believe people will at least look at it,” Whiting said.

Andolsen is working with other organizations in the community to launch similar messaging campaigns about Safe Sleep. She hopes other local business owners and leaders will follow Whiting’s lead.

The idea is to get the information in the hands of people in the community, outside of health care settings that can be stressful, Whiting said. Her restaurants are in many of the neighborhoods hit the hardest by infant mortality, areas such as East Cleveland, Buckeye, Warrensville Heights.

“People are going to come here. It’s comfort food,” said Whiting. “This is something we can do to get the word out.”

Upcoming Safe Sleep events

Safe Sleep Weekend will be Oct. 4-6. Faith leaders at more than 100 locations will spread the message of safe sleep and hand out materials to their congregations.

Original Article: View Online

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