New way for Indigenous maternity care

Can greater continuity of care by midwives lead to better health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers and their infants?

That's a $5 million question for a La Trobe University-led study about to start in Victoria with support from the Federal Government's just-announced National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Grants scheme.

Chief researcher Professor Helen McLachlan believes the answer may well be 'yes', based on other recent research into primary midwife-led care during pregnancy, labour and birth right through to the postnatal period.

She says that compared with the non-Indigenous population, maternal mortality, low birth-weight babies, preterm births, perinatal death and infant mortality are all substantially higher for Indigenous mothers and babies.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor Keith Nugent, says including this project, La Trobe has received a total of  $6.25 million for eleven projects in the latest round of NHMRC grants. This compares with $5.37 million last year.

Other projects will tackle a wide range of issues, from brain and sport injury rehabilitation, obesity, gastric and colon cancers, osteoarthritis, heart and obstructive pulmonary disease to a viral condition than can cause intellectual disability in unborn babies.

'It is an excellent outcome,' says Professor Nugent. 'Such increasing levels of research support recognise the quality and value of the University's expertise and the efforts of its scientists to make a difference to people's lives on a wide front of health problems.'

Bridging the gap between community care and hospitals

Indigenous maternity care study co-investigator Professor Della Forster says 'we are working closely with our partner organisations to explore the impact of continuity of midwifery care on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers and babies.'

Research partners are the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, the Royal Women's Hospital, the Mercy Hospital for Women, Sunshine Hospital and the Goulburn Valley Health Service.

'The aim is to bridge the gap between existing community-based care for Aboriginal women, such as that provided by the Koori Maternity Service, and the care women receive in hospital,' Professor Forster says.

The study is being funded by $1.5 million from the NHMRC with a further $3.5 million from the partner organisations.

Returning to sport after torn ligament injuries

Sports injury rehabilitation research by allied health scientist Dr Clare Ardern deals with torn knee ligaments, a common and debilitating sports injury.

Dr Arden says after tearing a knee ligament, two thirds of people avoid returning to sport, usually because they are afraid of being injured again.

Given the high cost of private sport psychologists, she will conduct a clinical trial to investigate whether an online toolkit can help people overcome their fears and return to exercise.

Read more about other NHMRC grants here

Contact: Ernest Raetz, Media and Communications, 0412 261 919.