Children's Health

Radio Road Block Designed to Raise Awareness of Shaken Baby Syndrome

Physicians at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital are concerned about the growing number of children being treated for Shaken Baby Syndrome and have partnered with 19 local radio stations in a significant public service effort to raise awareness and reduce the number of children injured by being shaken.

On October 23 at 7:30 a.m. radio listeners heard 45 seconds of a baby crying. The crying likely pierced their mind and heart. Listeners may have tried to change the channel but numerous stations were playing the sound of a crying baby. A voiceover’interrupted the crying and said, “No matter how much she cries. No matter how tired you are. No matter how frustrated you get. Never, ever shake a baby.” The radio spot was less than a minute in length but physicians at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital anticipate the campaign will make a difference.

According to the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome, head trauma caused by shaking is the leading cause of death or permanent disability among young abused children. Nearly 1,400 cases of Shaken Baby Syndrome are reported nationally each year, and as many as 100 cases are reported each year in Michigan. Sixty-six cases of Shaken Baby Syndrome were reported at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital between 1995 and 2005. The number doubled from 2006 to 2007 – four cases were reported in 2006 and eight cases were treated so far in 2007.

“A similar campaign was conducted in Milwaukee in 2001 and the results were significant,” said Danielle Spilotro, M.D., third year pediatric resident at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital and champion for bringing the campaign to Grand Rapids. “For three months after the radio spot aired in Milwaukee, no cases of shaken baby syndrome were reported at the children’s hospital. Our goal is to experience similar results in West Michigan.”

Long-term consequences of Shaken Baby Syndrome include:

  • Learning disabilities
  • Visual disabilities or blindness
  • Hearing impairment
  • Speech disabilities
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Seizures
  • Behavior disorders
  • Cognitive impairment

Facts on Shaken Baby Syndrome

  • 25 percent of all babies who are shaken die of their injuries.
  • 80 percent of infants who survive have permanent brain damage.
  • 59 percent of all child abuse occurs in infants under one year of age.
  • Approximately 60 to 70 percent of perpetrators are male.

“We truly appreciate the stations partnering with us to raise awareness of Shaken Baby Syndrome,” said Bob Connors, M.D., president, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. “Rarely is a ‘radio roadblock’ done on such a large scale due to inherent challenges with coordinating schedules, different station formats and competition among stations. I applaud the radio stations* for coming together to support such an important children’s health issue.”

* The following stations participated in the roadblock:’


Listen to the radio spot