Rachel Y. Moon, MD

MoonRachelDr. Moon studies factors affecting sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep-related infant deaths, including accidental suffocation, asphyxia, and ill-defined deaths. Behavioral risk factors include infant sleep position and location. She has used both quantitative and qualitative research techniques to better understand factors that influence parental decisions about where and how their infants sleep, and to develop innovative interventions.

One of Dr. Moon’s current projects aims to understand the influence of the social network (family, friends, and peers) and social norms  (explicit and implicit rules of a social group) on parental decisions about how and where their infants sleep, and how differences in social networks and norms contribute to disparities in SIDS and sleep-related infant deaths.  Her previous research has found that mothers assume the primary responsibility for making decisions concerning their infant, and that they seek information from trusted sources, most commonly family members and friends, to guide decisions. Mothers often consider their social network to be a more trustworthy resource than medical providers. The influence of social networks, if contrary to recommended health practices, represents a major barrier to acceptance of safe sleep practices. Her long-term objective is to develop intervention strategies, using the data generated in her studies, that will change social norms regarding infant sleep practices, leading to a reduction in the persistently high rate of sleep-related deaths in African-Americans.

Dr. Moon is also one of four principal investigators in a national collaborative effort to develop two complementary, culturally competent intervention strategies to modify parental decisions regarding infant sleep practices, and test the effectiveness of each strategy, separately and in combination. The interventions leverage social marketing strategies, the influence of health care professionals, and mobile technology to deliver health messages.

In addition, Dr. Moon works collaboratively with other researchers in the U.S. and internationally to conduct analyses of large databases and meta-analyses in order to further specify the behavioral risks for SIDS and other sleep-related infant deaths. View her physician profile on UVAhealth.com.

Figure displaying potential influences on parental decision-making with regards to infant sleep practices

Potential influences on parental decision-making with regards to infant sleep practices