CRE HiPP PhD Research Support Grant Scheme 2023-24 recipients announced

Rebecca Krispin Uncategorised

“Working hard is one thing, but being recognized is entirely something else.”
(Bereket Gebremichael, grant recipient)

We are thrilled to announce that seven PhD researchers in Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania 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.

Bereket Gebremichael, University of Adelaide: “Examining the impact of perinatal exposure to artificial sweeteners on maternal health and its long-term implications for the offspring”

The overarching theme of Mr Gebremichael’s PhD project is early life dietary exposure and its lasting impacts on health. He aims to shed light on the effects of exposure to low-calorie sweeteners during the perinatal period on pregnancy outcomes, and the long-term implications for women and children. He hopes that his research findings will positively impact the wellbeing of both women and their offspring.

Said Mr Gebremichael, “I am incredibly excited and deeply appreciative to have been given this opportunity through CRE HiPP.

“Some of this grant will be spent on the Australian Consortium for Social and Political Research 2024 summer program at the University of Melbourne, where I will attend an advanced applied longitudinal data analysis workshop. The remainder will be allocated for presenting my research at an international conference.”

Haimanot Hailu, Monash University: “Weight stigma towards preconception, pregnant and postpartum women: A societal perspective”

Weight stigma towards preconception, pregnant, and postpartum (PPP) women negatively impacts their health and that of their offspring. The general community setting is found to be one of the most common sources of weight stigma. However, the nature of weight stigma, community perceptions, societal norms, and the factors that sustain or prevent weight stigma towards PPP women living in larger bodies is unclear. Ms Hailu’s research aims provide valuable insights into these factors in order to contribute to the prevention of societal weight stigma.

”I am extremely thrilled and honoured to receive the CRE HiPP grant. I’m excited to make use of this valuable opportunity to the fullest,” said Ms Hailu.

Hannah O’Connor, University of Queensland: “Examining the enablers and barriers to dietary behaviour in pregnancy and maintenance postpartum following the ‘Healthy Gut Diet’ randomised control trial: a multi-methods study”

Dietary changes initiated during pregnancy are rarely maintained postpartum. The ‘Healthy Gut Diet’ is the first randomised control trial investigating if a dietary intervention during pregnancy targeting the gut microbiota can prevent Gestational Diabetes Mellites (GDM). Supporting sustainable long term dietary change is vital to maintain gut microbiota changes and support inter-conception and longer-term health. This project aims to explore the barriers and enablers to initiation and maintenance of dietary behaviour for gut health and postnatal maintenance.

Said Ms O’Connor, “I feel incredibly grateful and honoured to have received this grant through CRE HiPP. As an Accredited Practising Dietitian, I hope to be able to use the findings of my research to guide the development of future interventions and their translation into clinical practice.

“The CRE HiPP grant will enable me to adequately reimburse postpartum women for their valuable insights and time in a multi-methods study. It is fantastic to be able to recognise the valuable time of the women participating in my study.”

Lane Carrandi, Monash University: “Advancing healthcare through the development of an economic implementation toolkit”

Ms Carrandi’s project will develop a toolkit with end users, such as health service providers, researchers, healthcare funders and policymakers, to help guide them through the implementation of evidence-based practices. The aim of the toolkit is to expedite the research translation process and facilitate innovation in health services. The toolkit will be piloted in the context of femtech, an emerging area of healthcare that refers to technology, products and software designed to promote maternal lifestyle wellbeing and address the health needs of women during preconception and pregnancy.

“I am truly humbled and elated to have been selected as a recipient of this grant, an affirmation of my dedication to advancing research in the field of preconception and pregnancy,” said Ms Carrandi.

“I am at a pivotal moment in my academic career, and this grant will no doubt contribute significantly to the success of my PhD journey. I will allocate the funds towards participating in two international conferences—the HiPPP EMR-C Conference 2023 in Australia and ISPOR 2024 in the United States. These platforms will not only allow me to share my research findings, but also foster invaluable connections with global stakeholders.”

Lesley Pascuzzi, Curtin University: “Are you well on the way to parenthood?”

For most women and their families, the journey from preconception to parenthood is a time of great joy and happiness. However, for some this period is associated with an increase in mental health difficulty. In Australia, it is estimated that 1 in 5 mothers and 1 in 10 partners will experience perinatal anxiety and depression. Routine practice within maternity healthcare at present has no standardised screening for mental health in women or their partners.

Ms Pascuzzi’s project will work with midwives and consumers in Western Australia, to better understand these experiences, and to codesign a toolkit to standardise the practice of screening for and promoting mental wellbeing during this important life stage.

“To have this research project acknowledged and supported by CRE HiPP through this grant is extremely encouraging and endorses its importance. The grant will allow me to attend professional education in the chosen methodology of Intervention Mapping next year,” said Ms Pascuzzi.

“There are currently no evidence-based measures or programs specifically designed to enhance mental health and wellbeing during the perinatal period. This project will engage consumers and maternity healthcare stakeholders from the outset, and has a clear goal to lead to groundbreaking implementation in the priority area of improving mental health during a period of recognised vulnerability. It is very exciting!”

Malith Kumarasinghe, University of Tasmania: “The impact of interconception body weight and interpregnancy interval on maternal and offspring future outcomes”

Mr Kumarasinghe’s PhD research will be the first local project to use population-level data (the last 10 years of Tasmanian hospital data, including over 50,000 records of all mothers and their babies) to describe the impact of interconception body weight and interpregnancy intervals on pregnancy outcomes. It will produce local evidence and may translate into recommendations to plan future place-based targeted interventions and policy recommendations. The study aims to reduce the impact of maternal obesity in Tasmania, which is the highest among all Australian states.

Said Mr Kumarasinghe, “With the support of the CRE HiPP grant I will be able to expand my networks and have better access to vital data on Tasmanian maternal care that otherwise would not be accessible to me.

“This will enable me to produce results that will have a real-world impact on maternal care.”

Zahra Ali Padhani, University of Adelaide: “Preconception interventions and risk factors among adolescents and young adults”

Adolescents and young adults face multiple challenges regarding health and social wellbeing. There is a lack of evidence exploring their preconception risk factors and mapping existing interventions globally, including in Australia. Ms Padhani’s project will explore literature and gaps in the implementation of interventions to improve the health and wellbeing of adolescents and young adults (10 to <25 years of age) before pregnancy. It will also estimate disease burden and its association with pregnancy outcomes in this age group, and identify priority research areas to improve preconception health for young people in consultation with stakeholders.

“I am deeply honoured to be awarded this grant, which serves as a strong motivational factor, propelling my commitment to further progress. It underscores the significance of my work, validating its recognition within the Australian community,” said Ms Padhani.

“The funds will be pivotal in enabling my attendance at an upcoming conference in New
Zealand next year. This conference is dedicated to enhancing maternal and perinatal health
outcomes, and holds special significance as it marks my inaugural participation in an
international conference.

“The event promises to facilitate valuable connections with esteemed public health and health policy experts from both Australia and New Zealand.”

A huge congratulations to our grant winners! We wish them all the best in their research endeavours, and look forward to seeing the results impact on so many different aspects of preconception and pregnancy health.