MCHR celebrates 20 years with conference

For the past two decades, Mother & Child Health Research (MCHR), a multidisiciplinary public health research centre at La Trobe University, has been undertaking research to understand and improve the health and care of mothers and their infants. To celebrate its 20th Birthday the Centre is holding a one-day conference on Friday 14 October 2011.

Mother and ChildThe conference will address some of the pressing issues for mother and child welfare through recent research findings including: Can support from another mother improve the health and wellbeing of women experiencing violence? Have the caesarean section rates climbed too high? And what can be done to lift breastfeeding rates in low income families?

‘We are excited to celebrate this significant milestone by showcasing some of the Centre’s current research,’ says Professor Rhonda Small, Director of MCHR and a founding staff member.

‘Studies to be presented at the conference address key issues for  achieving a healthy start for mothers and their children: reducing unwanted pregnancy, protecting women from violence, improving care for immigrant women, reducing caesarean section and improving rates of breastfeeding have all been a focus of the Centre’s work,’ Professor Small says.

Associate Professor Angela Taft, MCHR, will present the findings of a groundbreaking study which provided women experiencing partner violence with support from another mother.

‘We have shown that with training and good ongoing support, local mothers can help other mothers in their community to improve their own health and safety, and feel better about themselves as parents,” said Dr Taft.

Another topic at the conference will be the escalating rates of caesareans sections as they have risen alarmingly over the last twenty years. Today almost a third of women give birth this way.

Dr Mary-Ann Davey, MCHR, studied 42,950 first births to women at low risk of complications in Victoria over six years. ‘We found that women with no medical reason for induction of labour were more likely to have a caesarean birth when their labour was induced,’ she says.

‘They were also more likely to have forceps and vacuum births. It would seem prudent to limit induction of labour to situations where there is a medical indication,’ Dr Davey says.

For some time breastfeeding rates have remained static in Australia, but socioeconomic disparities have widened, with women in low income areas more likely to give up breastfeeding earlier.  A recently funded study—Supporting breastfeeding In Local Communities (SILC)—will evaluate new strategies to support women to continue breastfeeding.

Dr Lisa Amir, a breastfeeding expert at MCHR and one of the lead researchers on the team, says ‘the SILC study will evaluate the effect of providing extra breastfeeding support in areas with low rates of breastfeeding.

‘Many women need help while learning to breastfeed, and providing assistance in their homes and local drop-in centres may be effective in supporting women to reach their breastfeeding goals,’ Dr Amir says.

Media Opportunity

What: MCHR 20th Birthday Conference

Venue: John Scott Meeting House, Bundoora Campus, La Trobe University

When: Friday 14 October 2011, 9.30am – 5.00pm, drinks from 5.00pm – 6.00pm

Cost: $60 or $40 concession for full-time students included: conference registration, morning and afternoon tea, lunch and celebratory drinks

More information: Conference program and registration form or e-mail 

For more information or to arrange an interview please contact:

Meghan Lodwick

La Trobe University Communications Officer
T:  03 9479 5353 M:  0418 495 941 E: