A research team led by clinical psychologist Associate Professor Yvonne Clark will receive almost $5 million in NHMRC-administered funding for a project to improve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing during pregnancy, birth and the early years.
Associate Professor Clark, a Research Fellow at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) and the University of South Australia, is one of seven Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander chief investigators involved in the project. Language groups represented include Kuku Yalangji (Torres Strait), Trawlwoolway (Tasmania), Waljen and Nyinina (Western Australia).
The research aims to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their families in South Australia and Western Australia to access the healthcare they need after identifying their concerns via a culturally safe app, Baby Coming You Ready?
Led by Associate Professor Clark, a Kokatha/Wirangu woman, the predominantly First Nations research team will support over 3,000 women across eight locations in South Australia and Western Australia.
Associate Professor Clark said she was excited to be involved in the research, which she described as "innovative and inspirational".
"With me there will be the strength, wisdom and skills of many others including our investigators, staff, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and our key partners," Associate Professor Clark said.
"Concerns about the gaps in this area have been raised at many of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community accountability forums and it is a privilege for our team to be entrusted to take this topic forward."
Women and families participating in the project will be given access to the co-designed Baby Coming You Ready? app. First developed with input from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders in Western Australia, the app asks women and their partners a series of questions to identify their concerns before and after their baby arrives, assisting with referral to appropriate care.
The team of medical and social health researchers will develop a tailored Coolamon Wraparound Care program, which will provide additional support for women to birth healthy babies. Coolamon (or gulaman) refers to a traditional bark or wooden vessel used to carry items and babies.
Associate Professor Clark said providing evaluated, increased and tailored support that empowered Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents to access culturally safe services would improve their health and wellbeing and that of their children in the early years.
The multidisciplinary team backing the program includes maternal, child health and early years clinicians, epidemiologists, health science researchers, key policy and decision makers, partner organisations and implementation scientists including national and global leaders.
Professor Anne Kelso AO, CEO of NHMRC, said "a key strength of this project is its leadership by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers."
"The team will use tools designed with Elders to help mothers during pregnancy and after birth so that their babies can be strong and healthy."
Whilst improving maternal healthcare knowledge, the program will directly address two Closing the Gap targets: healthy birthweights for babies and children being developmentally on track in their early years.
The project will seek to identify strength-based, action-oriented approaches and interventions that value Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people's concepts of health and wellbeing, cultural practices, knowledge and learning.
It will support the development of a national network to serve as a platform for professionals to promote lessons and ensure sustainability and transferability of their research.
The research team consists of maternal, child health and early years clinicians, epidemiologists, health science researchers, policy and decision-makers, partner organisations and implementation scientists, including national and global leaders.
The Australian Government will fund the program for five years through NHMRC's Targeted Calls for Research scheme. Targeted Calls for Research are a one-time request for grant applications to address a specific health issue where there is a significant research knowledge gap or unmet need.
|Chief Investigator||Application title||Administering Institution|
|Associate Professor Yvonne Clark||It's time to flourish: Co-designed perinatal and early years care, self-determined by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, Resulting in policy and practice transformation and Exceptional service (ICARE).||South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute|