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Call for First Nations families to join landmark health study

Call for First Nations families to join landmark h
Photo: First nations health study
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families are being urged to take part in a landmark research study to identify the strengths and risk factors they face in their health from birth through to adulthood. 

The Queensland Family Cohort wants at least 2500 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families that are currently pregnant to join the project and help improve health for future generations.

The study is being led by Mater Research and the Mater Mothers’ Hospital and will be the largest research study of its kind in Australia.  It is funded by Mater Foundation.

The researchers are also determined that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and academics are involved in prioritising what community health issues are included in the study.

The health of the mothers, partners and babies will be tracked throughout the pregnancy, after the birth and over several years.
Mater Research Principal Research Fellow for Indigenous Health, Associate Professor Kym Rae said they wanted to hear from First Nations people to better understand the health issues that disproportionately affect their communities.

“We want to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Queenslanders to look at health trajectories in these communities, with a particular focus on chronic diseases such as renal disease, diabetes and cardio-vascular disease,” Associate Professor Rae said.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have reduced life expectancy because of these chronic diseases. They also have significant strengths and resilience in managing health using holistic approaches. That’s why we want to work alongside these communities to develop clear paths to better health.”

Participants provide biological samples and health information through surveys, with the data then analysed to identify risk factors for disease.

Aboriginal mother and Palawa woman, Jordan Washington participated in the Queensland Family Cohort pilot study while expecting her daughter Lailani.

“We signed up because we liked the idea that information from our journey of having a family could improve understanding of the health needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and also shape the health of future generations,” Ms Washington said.

“It was easy to take part in the pilot and quite reassuring to get checked regularly during my pregnancy. Everyone was also really lovely, which is why I’ve signed up again for this specific Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander study.”

Principal Research Fellow and Cohort Founder Professor Vicki Clifton said the recruitment of 2,500 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families would mark a new milestone in the Queensland Family Cohort project, that aims to eventually recruit 10,000 families from all walks of life and from all corners of Queensland.

“Our two-year pilot of this Queensland Family Cohort project has already identified some important health trends that need attention, such as the need for greater mental health support during pregnancy for the mother and partner,” Professor Clifton said.

“We’re also very excited to be working with respected Aboriginal academic and Kamilaroi and Kooma woman, Associate Professor Maree Toombs from The University of Queensland, who’s helping with our governance and study design.”

Participants in the Queensland Family Cohort pilot study to date have included a diverse range of families such as people from refugee backgrounds, same sex couples, single parents, gender diverse people, IVF parents, surrogates and people with disabilities.

Families are recruited from about 22 weeks gestation.

The QFC team is currently recruiting families in South East Queensland but families who live regionally are also encouraged to apply.

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