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Mothers, babies and the important work of the NPESU

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30 September 2015
Associate Professor Georgina Chambers

The way we are having babies in Australia is changing. Since 1979, when the National Perinatal Epidemiology and Statistics Unit (NPESU) was established, women have been having their babies later in life, and having fewer of them. There has also been increasing use of interventions such as caesarean sections and IVF, and more choice in terms of the types of maternity care available. Such trends are not only interesting because of their social and economic implications; they also provide evidence to inform clinical care and health policy. Leading the national reporting of such epidemiological and statistical information in reproductive, perinatal and newborn health is the NPESU.

The Unit, located at UNSW since 1997, provides expertise and advice on reproductive, perinatal and maternal issues to government departments, professional bodies and researchers, and is the leading source of information to inform  community discussion and decision making on the health and wellbeing of mothers and babies in Australia.

Director of the NPESU Associate Professor Georgina Chambers said that the Unit has a dual role of  being custodian for a number of important datasets (including the Australian and New Zealand Assisted Reproduction Database (ANZARD) and the Australian and New Zealand Neonatal Network (ANZNN)) and undertaking important research  which focuses on ways to improve the health outcomes of vulnerable mothers and babies, particularly Indigenous mothers, those at risk of mental illness, those in custody, those suffering from infertility, and premature babies.

Earlier this year the Unit joined the Centre for Big Data Research in Health, a world-first research centre that was established within UNSW Medicine in 2014. The mission of the Centre is to harness the power of ‘big data’ to improve the health of the population and delivery of health services. Associate Professor Chambers said the move marked exciting times for the Unit.

“The move allows us to explore new ways of interacting with and presenting the large amount of data available to inform good clinical practice, and efficient health service delivery” she said.

“The NPESU will continue its valuable affiliation with the UNSW School of Women’s and Children’s Health (SWCH) thereby forming a nexus between a well-respected Clinical School and a leading data-centred health and medical research group. This type of strategic alliance between clinical and informatics groups is considered world best practice and was something I was keen to establish when I became the NPESU Director in 2014.”

In addition to this new venture, the Unit will continue its ongoing research projects which include policy and epidemiological research into IVF, using large linked datasets to improve reporting of outcomes in the first 28 days of life, implementing a national classification system for capturing and reporting information on maternity models of care, and developing a model to predict health outcomes at two years of age for very premature babies.

For more information about the Unit go to: https://npesu.unsw.edu.au/

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