What is a birth cohort?

A birth cohort is defined by a group of people born during a particular period or year. The proposed Queensland Family Cohort Study will take place in two phases; the pilot phase where we will assess the health of 200 babies and parents in Queensland in 2019, and the second phase being the Queensland-wide study where we will continually assess the health of 10 000 babies and parents in Queensland from 2020-2028.

Outcomes that have come from birth cohorts around the world

There have been a number of birth cohorts that have been set up to look at a number of aspects that may affect long-term health outcomes of our babies. Although the objectives of birth cohorts differ, data collected from birth cohorts have been able to identify key areas of intervention of maternal mental health, the benefits of accessibility community resources to support parent-child interaction, and associations between high sugar dietary patterns and increased childhood obesity, to name just a few.

If you are interested in finding out what types of birth cohorts exist around the world, read more here

Mater’s birth cohort collaborations


UNSW Baby Cohort 1000 Cohort Study

Act Early Initiative for the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth

Twins Research Australia, Centre for Epidemiology & Biostatistics, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, The University of Melbourne

Illawarra Born




Baby 200


Guandong Birth Cohort, via Professor Gunther Paul at James Cook University

The importance of a new Queensland birth cohort study

There have been numerous small-scale birth cohort studies throughout Australia and internationally, but none carried out at a large scale across Queensland since the Mater-University of Queensland Study of Pregnancy (MUSP); a prospective study of 8556 pregnant women that commenced in 1981. In this study, women were interviewed at their first clinic visit after giving birth.

This study builds on the work done by MUSP, but takes it further by including data on the health of parents and babies prior to birth, the health of fathers, and additional data on the use of pharmaceutical and non-prescription drugs and supplements, environmental data (pollutants) and psychological assessments.

Given the absence of a nationwide Australian birth cohort study, this study will be essential to sit alongside birth cohort studies being undertaken in other states. Without Queensland data, the strength of studies being undertaken in other states is diluted, because epidemiological data can only show associations between key factors and disease if findings cannot be correlated across many populations. Without the capacity to compare data across states, it will be impossible to determine whether there are factors that may cause Queensland babies to be at higher risk of disease.

Family cohort studies across Australia

The Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Victoria and Telethon Kids Institute in Western Australia are each undertaking large birth cohort studies of a similar scale to that proposed by the Queensland Family Cohort Study.  This will enable us to compare data sets of populations across states and ensure we are able to draw population-based conclusions from our research.

Study outcomes

The study will:

  • Increase understanding of the health of Queenslanders of reproductive age and their children
  • Improve understanding of the root causes of allergies and disease including genetic and environmental triggers
  • Inform targeted public health strategies to prevent disease and minimise environmental exposures
  • Inform government health and environmental policies to ensure improved health outcomes
  • Underpin health planning and the provision of more targeted health service delivery informed by data