The need

Every year, Australians are dying from non-communicable diseases like obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and chronic respiratory disease at an alarming rate. In 2008 alone, they accounted for 90 per cent of all deaths in Australia. 

Globally, there has been a decline in early childhood deaths and deaths from communicable, maternal, neonatal and nutritional disorders, while deaths from non-communicable diseases now account for 70 per cent of all deaths.

This pattern shows that we have become much better at helping women to deliver babies safely, at protecting young children from disease through immunisation programs and preventing children from dying through malnutrition. 

While new research and medications are helping to improve how we diagnose and treat non-communicable diseases, the ultimate goal is to prevent disease occurring in the first place and to ensure our ageing population is one that is healthy. To capture these problems before they have a chance to begin, it is important that we understand the mechanisms underlying these diseases and to answer questions like:

  • What makes a person susceptible to obesity?
  • Why do some people develop cancer or cardiovascular disease even though they eat well and exercise regularly?
  • How can early life nutrition, the timing and way we introduce new foods affect a baby’s lifelong health and risk of allergies?
  • How does our exposure to an increasing variety of chemicals in our homes and wider environment contribute to our risk of later development of disease?
  • How do we plan our health services to meet the health needs of the future?

Study aims

The specific aims of the proposed Queensland Family Cohort Study are to:

  1. Characterise the environmental, genetic, physiological and social health status of pregnant women and their partners.
  2. Model the relationship between parental health, pregnancy complications and the relationship to environmental exposures.
  3. Examine the impact of parental health and environmental exposures on the health of offspring in their first 1000 days.
  4. Estimate the economic impact of parental health and environmental factors for the current population and future generations.

Study timeline

Pilot study, recruiting now

  • The pilot study will provide a comprehensive health assessment of 200 babies and their parents at 24, 28, 36 weeks of gestation and at six weeks post-birth.
  • Participants will be recruited from Mater Mothers’ Hospitals in South Brisbane and will be required to visit Aubigny Place, adjacent to the hospital, for assessment.
  • Biological samples (blood, saliva and urine) and three growth ultrasound scans will be collected at each visit.
  • At delivery, the placenta, cord blood, cheek swab of the baby, baby urine and meconium will also be collected.
  • At six weeks postpartum breast milk and baby urine will be collected. Growth measures and body composition will also be examined for the baby.

Parents will be required to complete questionnaires at each visit to assess medication usage, smoking, mental health, quality of life, physical health related questions, chronic disease related questions, nutritional intake, breastfeeding and environmental and occupational exposures. Additionally, pollution exposures will be monitored at a random selection of postcodes and homes and meteorological data will be collected every day of the study to assess environmental interactions.

 

Full study, commencing 2020

The methodology of the pilot study will be tested and adjusted if necessary and will inform the proposed full study of 10 000 parents and their babies, commencing in 2020. Pilot data will be used to publish findings to provide additional support for the proposed Queensland Cohort Study.