Study aims to help women find their optimal health before, during and after pregnancy

Michelle Putt Uncategorised

Accessing credible health and lifestyle advice before and during pregnancy can be a daunting prospect when we’re served so much information through our everyday lives.

However, an innovative research collaboration with Medibank Private is hoping to make this task a more simple and accessible experience for Australian women.

Led by Dr Cheryce Harrison, from the Monash Centre for Health Implementation and Research (MCHRI) and CRE HiPP, the OptimalMe study recruits women through Medibank Private’s membership base prompted when women of reproductive age update their private health coverage to include pregnancy care.

“Women at preconception is a difficult population to engage, as we know that otherwise healthy women don’t often engage with health professionals to prepare for a pregnancy, they prepare in private with their partner,” Dr Harrison said.

“Partnering with Medibank is opportune as women who want to deliver a baby through private healthcare are subject to standard waiting periods – essentially signalling their pregnancy intention in the future.”

Dr Harrison said OptimalMe was an effective evidence-based lifestyle program aimed at enhancing skills in self-management and behaviour change to achieve their optimal level of health when considering pregnancy, during pregnancy and after birth.

“Importantly, it has been designed with women for women to ensure the information and support we’re providing is relevant to those accessing it,” she said.

Dr Harrison and her team are recruiting 300 women to take part in three interactive online modules to cover the three phases of pre-, during and post-pregnancy, focussing on healthy lifestyle behaviour change.

Participants are also linked in with a health coach to develop an action plan based on small achievable lifestyle health goals identified by the individual. Check-in calls are scheduled throughout the journey to discuss progress and any barriers that may be preventing participants from achieving their chosen goals.

“We know that women planning a pregnancy are motivated to ensure the health of their future family and sometimes accessing reliable and credible information can be very overwhelming – we hope this program and access to a health coach can make the journey a positive and confident one for those involved,” Dr Harrison said.

Participants are coached by qualified health experts including Dr Harrison and a team of nutritionists and exercise physiologists, to help improve women’s knowledge, confidence and motivation to achieve positive lifestyle changes.

“We’re really excited by this project and its potential outcomes for Australian women and their families,” Dr Harrison said.

Dr Harrison said she hoped to take her research further and eventually link the program through to birth outcomes through partnerships with maternity hospitals.

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