Mater Research planning for largest cohort study in Queensland

09/Aug/2018     HealthResearch

Mater Research is planning the largest group cohort study in the state since the 1980s, aiming to follow 10 000 Queensland families over three decades, in collaboration with Queensland universities and hospitals.

Before the Queensland-wide study commences, Mater Mothers’ Hospital will run a pilot study of 200 families at Mater, with recruitment beginning Monday 13 August.

Lead Researcher Professor Vicki Clifton said the Queensland Family Cohort Pilot Study at Mater will follow families from 20 weeks gestation, monitoring their maternal health during pregnancy, assessing their partners’ health, and examining perinatal outcomes.

“We hope to discover new biomarkers and interventions that improve the health of all Queenslanders,” Prof Clifton said.

 “Cohort studies help us understand what we are like now in terms of health, and what that means for future health services. We’re interested in seeing how environmental exposures and pollution data may affect our health,” said Professor Clifton.

“At the end of the pilot, not only will we have a great deal of information about the health of our reproductive age population, we’ll also be talking to families, researchers and scientists to find out if the process worked for them and how can we perfect this for the Queensland Family Cohort Study,” said Professor Clifton.

“We want to be sure it’s as easy as possible to collect this data, fitting in with the routines of both medical professionals and participating families.”

Research Midwife Janelle McAlpine encouraged women and their partners who plan to deliver at Mater Mothers’ Hospital to opt in to the study.

“Through this study, parents have the opportunity to directly impact the future health of their children.

“We will be recruiting women and their partners, from a diverse range of backgrounds, in two phases over the next five months,” said Ms McAlpine.

“We are making the process as simple as possible, with both the mother and partner completing questionnaires and supplying biological samples at various points throughout their pregnancy and at a six week postpartum follow-up.”

“Families will be assigned one research midwife for the duration of their pregnancy who will guide them through the process, providing extra support during pregnancy, birth and the first few weeks.”

Professor Clifton said the pilot study will provide a blueprint for researchers in developing the much larger Queensland Family Cohort Study, while also supporting a wide range of research.

“More than 200 researchers will be accessing the information captured as part of the trial for research into allergies, obesity and melanoma in pregnancy, to name a few.”

The Queensland Family Cohort Pilot Study at Mater aims to answer a range of research questions including:

  • What contributes to allergies during pregnancy and childhood in Queensland children?
  • Is pregnancy associated with the development of chronic back pain after birth?
  • Why do cancerous melanomas develop at a higher rate in pregnant women?
  • Does the risk of ovarian cancer in Queensland women increase with pregnancy?
  • Can scan data of the baby identify future cardiovascular disease risk?
  • What genetic factors contribute to kidney disease and kidney disease risk?
  • Medication usage through pregnancy and its impact on pregnancy outcomes
  • Genetic factors that contribute to obesity in childhood
  • Link between genetics and pregnancy complications

There have been numerous birth cohort studies throughout Australia and internationally, but none carried out at a large scale across Queensland.

Professor Clifton said the Queensland Family Cohort Study will build on the work of previous Australian birth cohorts, putting Queensland on the world map when it comes to cohort studies.

“We aim to follow partners, along with the mother and baby, and for a long period of time. In international studies there has been enough funding to follow babies born in the cohort study, right up until they have babies of their own.

“That’s what we’d like to do – a powerful longitudinal study to identify immediate and future health requirements of the Queensland population, helping shape health policy and practice.”

The pilot project is currently funded by Mater Research Institute-University of Queensland (MRI-UQ), Mater Foundation, Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Griffith University and Brisbane Diamantina Health Partners (BDHP).
If you are interested in participating in the trial and are currently 12-20 weeks pregnant please contact


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