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
Tanya Koolmatrie
Role: 
Senior Research Assistant
Arwen Nikolof
Role: 
Senior Project Officer
Thuy Bui
Role: 
Research Assistant
Lien Tran
Role: 
Community Engagement Project Officer
May Alqas Alias
Role: 
Community Engagement Project Officer
Sheri Shwe
Role: 
Community Engagement Project Officer
Shogoufa Hydari
Role: 
Community Engagement Project Officer

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.

Group Pregnancy Care
Group Pregnancy Care is a new approach to antenatal and postnatal care for refugee background families that involves inter-agency collaboration between public maternity hospitals, maternal and child health services and refugee/multicultural agencies. The aim of the program is to provide multifaceted, culturally appropriate preventive health care, information and support to refugee women during and after pregnancy in a group setting. A multidisciplinary team deliver the program in a community-based setting. A rigorous evaluation is underway involving bicultural researchers to investigate improvements in access to care, perinatal outcomes, health literacy and social connections.

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.

Family Foundations                                                                                                                                                                           Strengthening parenting partnerships and reducing stress during children’s early life is paramount as this is the time when foundations are laid for health across the lifespan. Family Foundations is an innovative program designed to strengthen parenting relationships, promote parent mental health, and reduce family stress and conflict during pregnancy and the early months after having a baby. We are currently working with Drummond Street Services to assess the feasibility and acceptability of the Family Foundations program for expectant couples and families living in Australia, prior to implementing a full-scale evaluation of the program.