Women’s lifestyle health over the pivotal reproductive stage is the focus of a new Australian research centre, determined to improve outcomes for women and their children.
The Centre of Research Excellence in Health in Preconception and Pregnancy (CRE HiPP) is an innovative, passionate, multi-disciplinary team of researchers, clinicians, students and consumers determined to refine knowledge and implement tools to support women planning a pregnancy, during pregnancy and into early parenthood.
What is the CRE HiPP?
Funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), CRE HiPP is led by Chief Investigator, Professor Helen Skouteris, Monash Warwick Professor of Health and Social Care Improvement and Implementation Science, at Monash University.
“Research shows maternal weight at conception is a key determinant of both maternal and childhood obesity and over half of Australian women enter pregnancy with overweight or obese,” said Prof Skouteris, who also heads the Health and Social Care Unit within Monash University’s School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine.
“It is not surprising, therefore, that leading national and international institutes and research organisations including the World Health Organisation, Australian Medical Association and the US Institute of Medicine, have called for targeted efforts to improve lifestyle behaviours prior to conception, and during pregnancy, to assist maternal and child health outcomes.
What does the CRE HiPP aim to do?
“The CRE HiPP aims to create and deliver health promotion, lifestyle improvement and obesity prevention, specifically targeting women prior to conceiving and during pregnancy to effect behavioural change and support women to be the healthiest versions of themselves through these significant stages of life.”
Prof Skouteris said research shows higher body mass index in preconception is associated with increased pregnancy complications including gestational diabetes mellitus, preeclampsia, caesarean section and large-for-gestational-age infants. Furthermore, children born to mothers living with obesity are twice as likely to be living with obesity themselves as children, through to adolescence and adulthood.
“CRE HiPP is a collaboration of many esteemed and pioneering researchers within Australia and internationally, who are passionate about addressing the barriers women currently face in maintaining a healthy lifestyle before and during pregnancy,” Prof Skouteris said.
“Through the CRE’s extensive multidisciplinary collaborations, we hope to catalyse our research expertise and translate this into policy and practice to improve the health of women and the next generation”.
Prof Skouteris said in order to drive evidence into practice, improve lifestyles, reduce the prevalence of maternal obesity, and improve health outcomes, there were a number of urgent needs the CRE HiPP would address.
“CRE HiPP will strategically prioritise efficacy and implementation research, capacity building, national and international expertise and collaboration, and extensive stakeholder and consumer engagement in this specific area of women’s health, to ensure we can deliver the goals we’re striving for,” she said.
Prof Skouteris thanked the National Health and Medical Research Council for its support and funding of this vital area of research.