Winners of CRE HiPP PhD Research Support Grant Scheme 2022-23 announced

Rebecca Krispin Uncategorised

We are excited to announce that eight PhD researchers in Victoria, NSW and Queensland have been awarded grants under this scheme. Details of the winning projects, which relate to various aspects of maternal lifestyle health during preconception and pregnancy, are provided below.

These grants will support activities to advance each individual research project, including participation in placements, workshops, conferences and other Professional Development.

Taylor Guthrie, University of Queensland: “The Bariatric sUrgery and Maternal nutrition in Pregnancy (BUMP) Study”

Ms Guthrie’s BUMP Study is the first Australian and largest international prospective study investigating pregnancy after bariatric surgery. This research provides an important opportunity to broaden understanding of the consequences of bariatric surgery throughout the life cycle, and to generate evidence to guide clinical practice interventions. In particular it will answer questions about the role of gestational weight gain, micronutrient supplementation and diet quality on pregnancy outcomes in this growing population of pregnant women.  

Said Ms Guthrie, “I am absolutely stoked and feel very grateful to have this opportunity through CRE HiPP. I have worked as an Accredited Practising Dietitian in maternal health for several years. Throughout this time, I have observed the increase in women falling pregnant after bariatric surgery and becoming frustrated with the lack of high quality evidence available to guide their care.

“The CRE HiPP grant will enable me to network with consumers to plan a qualitative study evaluating women’s experiences of antenatal care after bariatric surgery. These findings will help contextualise the recommendations from my PhD study to ensure women are at the centre of future improvements in evidence based care.” 

Kaylee Slater, University of Newcastle: “Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease for Women after Hypertensive Disorders of Pregnancy”

Ms Slater’s PhD program aims to improve the care provided to women during and after Hypertensive Disorders of Pregnancy (HDP) in the Hunter New England area. This includes informing them of their future risk of Cardiovascular Disease (CVD), supporting them for future pregnancies, and providing them with long-term CVD preventative care. These outcomes will be achieved through a systematic review of CVD prevention, surveys exploring the barriers and facilitators to engaging in CVD prevention, and working with stakeholders to co-design a suitable intervention.

Said Ms Slater, “I am extremely grateful and excited about receiving this grant. I truly believe that it will open up many doors for me and I look forward to seeing what the future holds.

“I am using part of this grant to present at an in-person conference specific to research in preconception, pregnancy and postpartum. I hope to network with many researchers like myself and build meaningful connections. After two years of doing my PhD in a virtual world, I am most excited about being able to present my findings to a live audience! The remainder of the grant will be used to train in qualitative interviewing and co-design research techniques, which will enable me to complete the next phase in my PhD.”

Nishadi Withanage, Monash University: “Primary-care based preconception interventions that reduce identifiable risks and improve pregnancy outcomes”

As the first point of healthcare contact, primary care providers are ideally placed to provide preconception care (PCC). However, the effectiveness of primary care-based PCC interventions, which may include counselling, education, diet modification and supplementary medication, is unclear. Ms Withanage’s research aims to improve primary care-based PCC by assessing the effectiveness of existing interventions and approaches, identifying the most at-need target populations, and co-designing an innovative model of nurse-led PCC for these settings. 

“I’m honestly privileged to have received the CRE HiPP grant at this early stage of my PhD. I am excited to contribute to increasing access to PCC services in general practice settings through my research project,” said Ms Withanage.

“This grant will help me travel to the UK to present my work at the 5th European PCC conference, which will be the first international conference I will be attending. It will also provide me with the opportunity to visit and build networks with the preconception health team at the University of London, for which I am very excited!”

Bonnie (Chivers) Brammall, Monash University: “Optimising women’s health, lifestyle behaviours and digital health engagement during preconception, pregnancy and postpartum”

Ms Brammall’s PhD comprises the development, delivery and evaluation of an online health coaching platform called OptimalMe. It covers the period from preconception to post-birth, and includes coaching on issues such as alcohol consumption and gestational weight management. Her work provides insight into digital health engagement, preconception behaviour change, and the impact of remotely delivered coaching methods. It will have a significant impact on digital health practices both within and beyond preconception and perinatal settings. 

“I am incredibly excited to receive this grant. Due to COVID-19 the opportunity to travel and collaborate with other groups has been limited during my PhD, so this grant presents a great opportunity for me,” said Ms Brammall.

“This grant will enable me to present my research at an international conference, and visit an international research team to share our insights. Our intervention can be scaled and easily adapted, so fostering international relationships may enable us to reach considerably more women, with the hope of improving their preconception health and lifestyle behaviours.”

Sophia Torkel, Monash University, “Optimising lifestyle interventions for infertility”

Ms Torkel’s PhD consists of a series of projects which aim to optimise lifestyle interventions for infertility. These include piloting a Mediterranean diet intervention for couples undergoing in vitro fertilisation (IVF), studying the enablers and barriers to preconception lifestyle interventions in women with infertility and relevant health professionals, and a study exploring relationships between infertility, lifestyle and healthcare use.  These projects will provide valuable insights into ways in which maternal lifestyle health can be improved during preconception.

Said Ms Torkel, “I feel honoured to receive this grant, and excited to make the most of this valuable opportunity. I will be using this grant to fund a qualitative research project involving interviews with women with infertility and health professionals in this field, to gain insight into factors affecting the uptake and provision of lifestyle interventions for infertility.”

Kerry Sutcliffe, University of Notre Dame, Sydney: “Childbirth Education: A systems based approach to the use and application of an evidence based program”

Ms Sutcliffe’s PhD investigates the role that support people (birth partners and care-providers) play in the application of childbirth education (CBE) strategies during birth. CBE has the potential to support a physiological birth and reduce unnecessary interventions that can lead to short and long-term health effects on mothers and babies. This study examines CBE information and techniques from a previously researched evidence-based antenatal program. Exploring the mediating effect that support people have on the translation of these CBE strategies will help build a body of evidence regarding their effectiveness.

“I was thrilled to receive the CRE HiPP grant. It is very motivational to see the work you are doing is being acknowledged by others, and receiving some financial incentive is always a great bonus,” said Ms Sutcliffe.

“The grant money will be spent on attendance at conferences, so that I can disseminate my findings to relevant audiences. There is so much good research happening in this field, and I feel passionate about making sure my research findings can also be translated into practice. The first step to this is making sure others know about it!”

Rebecca Madill, Monash University: “Optimising the delivery of digital health information in culturally and linguistically diverse pregnant women: Improving equity, access and engagement”

Ms Madill’s research aims to understand health information seeking behaviours to improve health outcomes for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) women during pregnancy. This project will form and work closely with a consumer and community involvement (CCI) group of CALD women, to generate understanding and insight into their needs, and to co-design culturally sensitive, relevant and accessible healthy lifestyle resources for pregnancy.

“I am very excited and humbled to be a CRE HiPP PhD Research Support Grant recipient. I am looking forward to working with CALD women to learn more about their health information needs during pregnancy,” said Ms Madill.

“This grant will help me to connect with and fund consumers during my research journey. As highlighted by the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (ACSQHC), consumers help make research more relevant, meaningful and useful in shaping the health needs of women across a variety of diverse backgrounds, especially those from under-represented populations.”

Gemechu Kumera, University of Technology, Sydney: “Antenatal exercise using an innovative exergame program”

Exergames may be a promising alternate way to encourage pregnant women to engage in a regular exercise program, but their feasibility has not yet been studied in this target group. In the first part of this study, a multidisciplinary team of experts evaluated the Nintendo Switch exercise programs, and concluded they can be used in pregnancy, provided the exercises are safe for each trimester and tailored to the individual. In the next phase of this project, Mr Kumera will investigate the feasibility of these Nintendo programs among pregnant women through a small-scale feasibility study. This will be followed by a larger randomized clinical trial to investigate the effects of antenatal exercise using exergames on pregnancy and birth outcomes.

Said Mr Kumera, “I am very grateful to CRE HiPP and excited to be awarded with this grant. These funds will help me to cover the costs of attending and presenting at the first international congress on Exercise and Wellbeing in Pregnancy in Italy. This conference is a key opportunity for networking and meeting with internationally renowned experts in this field, as well as policy leads and industry representatives.”

CRE HiPP heartily congratulates the grant winners and wishes them all the best in their upcoming research endeavours!

CRE HiPP PhD Research Support Grant Scheme 2022-23 recipients