Healthy Mothers Healthy Families

Health, wellbeing and equity for all mothers, children and families

Strategies to promote a healthy start to life have been identified as having the greatest potential to reduce health inequalities across the life course.

The Healthy Mothers Healthy Families research program focuses on what can be done in pregnancy and the early postnatal period to improve maternal, newborn and child health outcomes. The group's vision is health, wellbeing and equity for all mothers, children and families. We have a particular interest in ways that health services can work to improve health outcomes for socially isolated and/or disadvantaged women and families. 

In particular, our program of research focuses on improving the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal families, families of refugee background and women and children experiencing family violence

Group Leaders: 
Group Members: 
Dr Susan Perlen
Role: 
Honorary Research Fellow
Dr Sara Kenyon
Role: 
Honorary Research Fellow
Dr Nirosha Lansakara
Role: 
Honorary Research Fellow
Dr Catherine Chamberlain
Role: 
Honorary Research Fellow
Karen Glover
Role: 
Honorary Senior Research Fellow
Edith Bavin
Role: 
Honorary Senior Research Fellow
Roxanne Miller
Role: 
Senior Project Officer
Ali Fogarty
Role: 
DPsych Scholar
Petrea Cahir
Role: 
Research Coordinator/PhD Scholar
Arwen Nikolof
Role: 
Senior Project Officer
Tanya Koolmatrie
Role: 
Senior Research Assistant
Thuy Bui
Role: 
Research Assistant

Maternal Health Study
The Maternal Health Study is multi-wave, prospective cohort study investigating the health and well-being of over 1500 first-time mothers and firstborn children. The study provides a comprehensive picture of women's health during pregnancy, and after first and subsequent births. Data are being collected on common maternal physical and psychological health problems, including urinary and faecal incontinence, sexual health problems, depression, anxiety and intimate partner abuse, and on a range of child health and developmental outcomes at age 4 and age 10. This has resulted in a rich data set with unique data on trajectories of mothers and first-born children. Findings are being used to inform policy and practice in maternity care, early childhood services and primary care.

Aboriginal Families Study
The Aboriginal Families Study began as a population-based study investigating the views and experiences of over 340 Aboriginal women having a baby in urban, regional and remote areas of South Australia between July 2011 and June 2013. We are now extending the study to follow-up mothers and children as the children start school. The study is at the forefront of efforts to work across the interface of policy, health services and community to design and implement strategic, policy relevant research needed for Australia to achieve sustained improvements in the health of Aboriginal women and children. The study is being conducted in partnership with the Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia and involves collaborations with SA Health, the University of Adelaide and the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute.

Childhood Resilience Study
There is overwhelming evidence that childhood adversity has long-term consequences for health, social development, learning and well-being across the life-course and extending to the next generation. What is less well understood is why and how some children do well in the face of adversity. This study - funded by NHMRC - will develop and test a multi-dimensional, socially inclusive measure of resilience in middle childhood. The study is being conducted in partnership with the Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia, the Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture and several other health service and community agencies.

Having a baby in a new country: the experience of Afghan families
There is a dearth of evidence regarding the experiences of health and health care of women of refugee backgrounds in Victoria. This lack of evidence curtails efforts to respond adequately to the needs of women and families. Having a baby in a new country is a descriptive exploratory study using participatory approaches to engaging community in research. The study documents the experiences of Afghan women and families having a baby in Melbourne, and explores the experiences of health professionals providing maternity and postnatal care to families. The study was undertaken in partnership with the Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture (Foundation House).

Bridging the Gap
Bridging the Gap is a partnership project funded by NHMRC to develop, implement and investigate the impact of quality improvement interventions in maternity and early childhood primary health care sectors on health outcomes for refugee families. The program is being conducted by a partnership of eleven organisations including maternity services, maternal and child health services, local and state government, the Municipal Association of Victoria, VICSEG New Futures, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute and Foundation House. Evaluation will include use of routinely collected service data to monitor changes to performance indicators and outcomes over time.