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In this review, we describe the epidemiological work conducted by ourselves and others on prone sleep position and sudden infant death. What we have learned since 1990 is that the prone sleep position was a major component of a casual pathway that was operating in over half of the SIDS deaths that were occurring in developed countries at the end of the 1980. It has been estimated that advice to place infants supine to sleep may have saved in the order of 850 infants annually in Australia and other countries. The story of the SIDS epidemic is an example of the contribution that epidemiology can make to the understanding and prevention of an important public health problem.

Original publication




Journal article


Ann Epidemiol

Publication Date





245 - 249


Cause of Death, Female, Humans, Infant, Newborn, Male, Prevalence, Primary Prevention, Prone Position, Risk Factors, Sensitivity and Specificity, Sleep, Sudden Infant Death