Pregnancy and Weight Gain

Two research projects aimed at combating weight gain during pregnancy and enhancing school-based physical activity programs have been successful in the latest round of National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funding.

More than $1.75 million will fund the projects, led by researchers from the University, HMRI and Hunter New England Health.

Weight gain outside of recommended levels during pregnancy contributes to a range of issues for mother and child, including gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, preterm birth, and obesity. Nationally, 50 to 70 per cent of pregnant women report gaining weight outside of recommended levels, however less than 10 per cent of health professionals routinely weigh women, discuss appropriate weight gain, and provide referrals for additional support.

A team led by Professor John Wiggers will focus on enhanced interventions for mothers to address this gap by increasing the delivery of recommended gestational weight gain care by antenatal services.

Governments internationally have invested billions into school-based physical activity programs, however just 23 per cent of community organisations have been shown to sustain the use of public health programs within two years. In addition to the potential public health benefits not being achieved, discontinued programmes are wasteful of human and material resources, and can diminish community trust and support for future programmes.

A team led by Dr Nicole Nathan will implement the first randomised controlled trial of its kind to assess the effectiveness of interventions to sustain these prevention programs. The research will engage 120 NSW primary schools to implement a sustainability strategy to help schools maintain an activity program over a two year period, and ultimately evaluate the differences between the proportion of school classes that sustain the 150 minutes of planned physical activity each week to those in a control group.