Tuesday, May 6, 2014 - 16:15
pregnant belly

Working together to provide the best support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families during pregnancy, birth and early parenting.

Imagine being an elite athlete preparing for a major event, with your own personal support team providing advice on exercise, nutrition, mental coping skills and care for your body. You would feel more confident and as well prepared as you could be, right?

Now imagine that you are a pregnant woman preparing for the major event of your life: the creation of new life. Wouldn’t you like that same kind of support?

This is exactly what researchers at the Mater Research Institute-UQ and partner organisations had in mind when they devised a plan to help improve the health outcomes of urban Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers and their babies.

“We are offering a fully integrated service for expectant mothers and their families to help them enjoy the best experience possible, as well as support their health and welfare during this exciting time,” says Professor Sue Kildea from the School of Nursing and Midwifery.

“It may be just a little thing – such as advice to stop smoking – that will make a big difference, if the recommendation is coming from a trusted source such as our support team and is backed by an innovative program being tested.”

The researchers have established a Midwifery Group Practice, or continuity-of-care model, for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers planning to birth at the Mater so they will have the same team of people providing care and assistance from early pregnancy through to around six weeks post-birth.

Every woman has her own midwife on-call 24 hours a day, and a support team that includes Aboriginal maternity health workers, Aboriginal student midwives, doctors, and other health professionals.

With help from the partner organisations, all care provision and governance structures are culturally sensitive and provide “add-on” services that significantly enhance the program.

So what inspired this research?

“In 2010, we conducted a survey of women attending the Mater Mothers’ Hospital specialist antenatal clinic for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women which revealed that, although the service had an excellent reputation and women were very satisfied with the service received, they were not happy about having no continuous access to a known carer during labour, birth and the early weeks of life,” says Professor Kildea.

“Coupled with an increase in the number of premature babies born to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers, we felt that more work needed to be done in this area.”

International research has shown that women appreciate the opportunity to get to know their care providers during pregnancy: they become more confident in childbirth and with looking after their baby after having had a trusted professional with whom to share their concerns. As well, the Midwifery Group Practice model of care has shown a reduction in premature births – one of the greatest challenges of our time.

“We are hoping to achieve the same in our setting,” says Professor Kildea.


UQ researchers: Professor Sue Kildea (Mater Research Institute-UQ/UQ School of Nursing and Midwifery/ Mater Health Services), Dr Anton Clifford (School of Population Health), Professor Sue Kruske (UQ School of Nursing and Midwifery, Mater Health Services)

Funding source: $1.4 million National Health and Medical Research Council Partnership for Better Health Grant

Partner organisations: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service Brisbane Ltd, Institute for Urban Indigenous Health, Mater Mothers’ Hospital

Collaborators: Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, University of Newcastle, University of Sydney, West Griffith University