Closing the life expectancy gap for Indigenous Australians

Feb 24 2010

A new research program to be launched today will investigate ways to achieve healthy pregnancies for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.

The rate of premature births in Indigenous communities is almost twice that of non-Indigenous communities1 and Aboriginal babies are twice as likely to be born excessively small compared to non-Aboriginal babies.

The ‘Gomeroi gaaynggal – Gomeroi babies’ program comprises two parts – a scientific research program led by Professor Roger Smith* from the University of Newcastle, and an ArtsHealth program delivered through community groups to Aboriginal women of childbearing age.

Researchers in Newcastle and at the University Department of Rural Health in Tamworth, will examine possible causes of premature birth, the births of small babies and babies with reduced renal function, in the Indigenous community.

The team will focus on the health of Aboriginal babies as they grow and develop inside the uterus, and factors affecting the timing of birth.

The ArtsHealth program will feed back to the community, the knowledge gained through medical research, to improve the health of Aboriginal mothers and their children.

The scientific program is funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), theUniversity of Newcastle, and Kidney Health Australia. The NHMRC funding follows early findings from the project ‘Linking Cigarette Smoking to Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes in Aboriginal Women’, which was funded by a pilot grant from the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI).

The ArtsHealth program is funded by the Thyne Reid Foundation and the ArtsHealth group at theUniversity of Newcastle.

Professor Roger Smith leads the Mothers and Babies Research Centre within the University ofNewcastle’s Priority Research Centre for Reproductive Science. He also leads the HMRI Pregnancy and Reproduction Research Program. HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.

1 Australian Bureau of Stats, ‘Births Australia’, 2006. 2 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Australian Bureau of Statistics, ‘The health and welfare of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait peoples’.