Lesley Barclay.
Lesley Barclay.

New research to benefit Aboriginal mums and kids

THE innovative work of Professor Lesley Barclay, director of Lismore's University Centre for Rural Health, will benefit an untold number of indigenous mums and kids in coming years.

Prof Barclay and her team's work, involving five years of extensive research on birthing practices in rural and remote communities in the Northern Territory's top end, has been recognised by the Federal Government as one of the top 10 national research projects in 2014.

"We called it one plus one. The year before and year after birth for Aboriginal infants and mothers from remote Aboriginal communities," Prof Barclay said.

"What we did is try and understand the process of antenatal care, the labour and birth process and the first year of parenting, because the results showed, and still show in many cases, really unacceptable outcomes for mothers and infants. Very different from the rest of Australia.

"There was a large number of babies who were underweight and had worse outcomes."

The research, supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), led to the rollout of a model of care which has delivered improved treatment for Aboriginal mothers and their babies.

One of the most significant improvements was the Midwifery Group Practice model, which provides a continuity of care in which one known midwife provides pregnancy, birth and post birth services.

"We worked with the health service and Aboriginal leadership to identify how things could improve," Prof Barclay said.

"Some of which worked very well, others not so well, and what we did at the end of five years is evaluated what happened and showed a model of care that provided more continuity to Aboriginal women when they came to town for birth."

The professor and her team are now working to develop the Australian Regional Birthing Index, which estimates the level of maternity service required for regional populations.

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