August 10, 2020

Research collaboration to prevent premature births

Collaborating with community organisations and research partners is a key focus for Northern Health, so we can continue to work together to create a healthier community.

La Trobe University researchers working to prevent premature births among socially disadvantaged and vulnerable women recently secured $1.6 million over four years from the Medical Research Future Fund’s “Preventative and Public Health Research” scheme.

La Trobe Professor of Midwifery, Helen McLachlan, received the funding to lead a randomised trial to explore whether caseload midwifery – offering continuity of care from a ‘known’ midwife to vulnerable women – can help reduce their substantially higher risk of preterm births.

The randomised trial will involve over 1,800 women and 10 midwives from three Victorian hospitals – Northern Health, the Royal Women’s Hospital and Bendigo Health.

Professor McLachlan said the innovative public health trial ultimately aims to prevent babies being born too early.

“Preterm birth is the most common cause of death in Australian infants. It also impacts on the short and long-term health of over 27,000 babies nationally each year, with much poorer health outcomes for vulnerable and disadvantaged mothers,” Professor McLachlan said.

She said caseload midwifery is associated with improved clinical and psychosocial outcomes for women, but it has been tested in mostly very low risk populations so far.

Debra Bourne, Northern Health Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, said, “Northern Health welcomes this incredible opportunity to work together with La Trobe University in this research project.”

“We are committed to offering caseload midwifery and, in the participation of this research project, will provide the support and partnership needed to get this important model in place for women and babies in our community,” Debra said.

La Trobe Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Industry Engagement) Professor Susan Dodds welcomed the funding.

“This is an investment in research that would have a lasting and meaningful impact on Australian families,” Professor Dodds said.

“La Trobe University is focused on research and teaching programs that bring about positive, tangible change. I am particularly proud that this work has been funded which will undoubtedly improve the lives of vulnerable women and their babies.”