Tasmanian researchers are part of a new national centre of excellence which aims to reduce the prevalence of maternal obesity and improve child health outcomes.
The NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence (CRE) in Health in Preconception and Pregnancy (HiPP): Prevention of Maternal Obesity is being led by Professor Helen Skouteris of Monash University.
Professor Andrew Hills, from the University of Tasmania’s School of Health Sciences, College of Health and Medicine, and Distinguished Professor Alison Venn, from the Menzies Institute for Medical Research are Chief Investigators in the new HiPP CRE.
Research shows maternal weight at conception is a key determinant of childhood obesity and over half of Australian women enter pregnancy overweight or obese.
The HiPP CRE aims to create and deliver health promotion, lifestyle improvement and obesity prevention, specifically targeting women prior to conceiving and during pregnancy.
“Two thirds of Australian adults are overweight or obese, with reproductive-aged women leading this trend,” HiPP CRE lead and Chief Investigator Professor Helen Skouteris said.
“Research has shown higher body mass index (BMI) in preconception independently increases complications including gestational diabetes mellitus, preeclampsia, caesarean section and large-for-gestational-age infants.”
The research initiative includes researchers from Monash University and University of Tasmania, along with team members from across Australia and around the world.
“Through its extensive multidisciplinary collaborations, the HiPP CRE is aiming to catalyse its research expertise and translate this into policy and practice,” Professor Skouteris said.
Leading national and international institutes and research organisations including the World Health Organisation (WHO), Australian Medical Association (AMA) 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.