Funding to prevent premature births

La Trobe University researchers working to prevent premature births among socially disadvantaged and vulnerable women have secured $1.6 million over four years from the Medical Research Future Fund’s “Preventative and Public Health Research” scheme, announced by Health Minister The Hon Greg Hunt MP.

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.

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.

The randomised trial will involve over 1800 women and 10 midwives from three Victorian hospitals (the Royal Women’s Hospital, Northern Health and Bendigo Health).

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.”

Media Contact: Kathryn Powley | k.powley@latrobe.edu.au | 03 9479 3491 | 0456 764 371

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