A new project led by the Murdoch Children's Research Institute (MCRI) aims to reduce the number of babies being born with a low birthweight. 

North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network (NWMPHN) has commissioned MCRI to co-design, implement and evaluate new approaches to support pregnant women and families in Melton South.

MCRI Dr Elisha Riggs, who will oversee the project, said if a child was born with a low birthweight, they would have an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, intellectual and developmental disabilities and obesity during their lifetime.

"The first thousand days of life are integral to a child's development and overall health and wellbeing, but not all children are getting the best chance to thrive in this critical period," she said.

"Melton South has been identified as an increasingly diverse area, with a high proportion of refugee and migrant families moving into the area who are likely to experience social disadvantage and multiple barriers to maternity and early childhood health care."

Dr Riggs said the project would use a 'whole of service' intervention to promote equity-oriented health care for families living in Melton South around the time of having a baby.

"The project will work with local communities to ensure services are well set up to meet the needs of culturally diverse families, including families of refugee background," she said.

A midwife and maternal and child health nurse will support service providers to implement the initiative and foster sustainable organisational and practice change.

The project will be supported through the following partnerships:

  • Djerriwarrh Health Services will provide pregnancy and early postnatal care
  • Melton City Council's maternal child health services will provide early childhood health care and parenting support
  • VICSEG New Futures will support bicultural staff and community engagement
  • Foundation House will provide professional development and mentoring to support health professionals to provide trauma-informed care, which aims to create safe and trusting environments, minimise harm, prevent re-traumatising people, and promote healing