Professor Paul Colditz speaks to ABC News Breakfast about a SIDS pledge

ABC News Breakfast

By Patrick Wood

Nine babies and pre-school children die suddenly or from preventable causes every day in Australia, prompting doctors to launch a new campaign to bring that figure to zero.

Not-for-profit organisation Red Nose (formerly SIDS and Kids) has joined families and politicians at Parliament House in Canberra today pledging to end the unexpected deaths of children from 20 weeks in pregnancy to four years old.

"We need to pick up these babies earlier before they die," Professor Paul Colditz, a neonatal clinician who joined the pledge, said.

"There is no single cause, but certainly the data is ... starting to refine just what the causes are that may be preventable."

An analysis of ABS data from the past three years shows 3,200 children die each year as a result of Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI) or Children (SUDC), stillbirth, or sudden accidental deaths such as drownings, poisonings and road accidents.

That is more than double the national road toll.

It's a statistic that is sadly real for Melanie and Sean Manning, whose 15-month-old daughter, Mylee, died suddenly in her sleep four years ago.

"We put our healthy, bubbly baby down to sleep, like we did every night," they said in a statement.

"When we went to wake her in the morning, we instantly knew something was wrong - it's a feeling no parent ever wants to feel.

"What makes us truly upset is that there are still families going through what we did when Mylee died."

'Research offers renewed hope'

Paul ColditzRed Nose has invested $16.5 million into research into unexpected child deaths and is currently funding four medical research projects.

Professor Colditz said Australia is a healthy country, but "doesn't have a particularly proud record" when it comes to deaths of children aged between one and four.

"We are usually in the top 10 for most health outcomes," he said.

"In fact, for those older children who die ... then we are about 17th down the league table."

Professor Colditz said research into two particular areas could offer hope to bring down the number of unexpected stillbirths.

"One, doing some tests early in pregnancy on a blood test from mum to define risk," he said.

"The second ... is we have got new opportunities through bio-medical engineering and technology to look at the foetus and define risk."

Last updated:
27 March 2019