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Australia’s leading stillbirth research centre has welcomed a new national plan setting out a roadmap to reduce the rate of stillbirth in Australia.

Today’s launch of the National Stillbirth Action and Implementation Plan marks the first Australia-wide plan to strategically address the issue of stillbirth.

Professor Vicki Flenady, Director of the Centre of Research Excellence in Stillbirth (Stillbirth CRE), said the plan was a monumental step forward in the fight to end preventable stillbirth in Australia.

“The National Stillbirth Action and Implementation Plan is a significant milestone in our battle to save the lives of the six babies lost each and every day to stillbirth in this country,” Professor Flenady said.

“It is the culmination of years of work by researchers, advocates and parents committed to stillbirth prevention. We thank the Australian Government and the Parliament for a bipartisan commitment
to advancing this important, life-saving work,” she said.

More than 2000 babies are stillborn every year in Australia; a rate that has changed little in two decades. This is despite research indicating up to 30 per cent of stillbirths could be avoided with the provision of better care.

The Stillbirth CRE, which leads a cohesive national program of research and implementation, has welcomed the overarching goal of the National Stillbirth Action and Implementation Plan, to reduce the rate of stillbirth in Australia by 20% within five years, and to ensure that, when stillbirth occurs, families receive respectful and supportive bereavement care.

Professor Flenady said the Federal Government’s adoption of the plan heralded a real change in prioritising stillbirth at a national level.

“For too long, stillbirth has been approached as a personal tragedy, rather than a public health issue. As a result, funding into research and community awareness campaigns has been lacking” Professor
Flenady said.

“The National Stillbirth Action and Implementation Plan highlights a clear shift from silence to action in Australia by delivering a roadmap to reduce stillbirth rates across the country, and particularly among communities most at risk of experiencing a stillbirth,” she said.

The plan’s five key priority areas, with recommended actions for the short, medium and long-term, are:

  1. Ensuring high quality stillbirth prevention and care
  2. Raising awareness and strengthening education
  3. Improving holistic bereavement care and community support following stillbirth
  4. Improving stillbirth reporting and data collection
  5. Prioritising stillbirth research

Other significant issues raised in the report include a roadmap for decreasing inequities in stillbirth rates in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, migrant, and rural and remote communities through
culturally appropriate interventions and preventative care.

Improvements in the investigation and reporting of stillbirth, and the need for further stillbirth research, including the establishment of a national placental biobank, are also listed as priorities in
the plan.

The Stillbirth Foundation funds research into prevention and education of stillbirth in Australia.

Stillbirth Foundation CEO Leigh Brezler said she was pleased the plan went beyond stillbirth education and research to include provisions for bereavement care and support for families.

“Stillbirth is extremely traumatic and carries significant personal, social and financial consequences for impacted families,” Ms Brezler said. “That is why we are pleased to see high-quality bereavement care and support for families who experience stillbirth included in the plan, as well as improving care in subsequent pregnancies for women who have experienced stillbirth.”

[Ends]

Media Contact

Margaret de Silva
Centre of Research Excellence in Stillbirth
+61 7 3163 2463 | stillbirthcre@mater.uq.edu.au

Safer Baby Bundle Aims to Reduce the Rate of Stillbirth in ACT Hospitals across Canberra will today begin implementing a new program designed to significantly reduce the rate of preventable stillbirths.

The Safer Baby Bundle is a package of resources and interventions for maternity health professionals designed to reduce the ACT’s incidence of late-gestation stillbirth (after 28 weeks) by 20% by 2023.

Across Australia, on average six babies are stillborn every day, a statistic that has changed little in the past two decades. This is despite research indicating up to 30 per cent of stillbirths could be avoided with better care.

Developed by the NHMRC-funded Centre of Research Excellence in Stillbirth (Stillbirth CRE), the Safer Baby Bundle offers health providers evidence-based training and support to keep more women and their babies safe through pregnancy.

The Safer Baby Bundle covers five elements to reduce the rate of stillbirth from 28 weeks:

  1. Supporting women to stop smoking in pregnancy.
  2. Improving detection and management of fetal growth restriction.
  3. Raising awareness and improving care for women with decreased fetal movements.
  4. Improving awareness of going to sleep on either side from 28 weeks; and
  5. Improving shared decision-making around timing of birth for women with risk factors for stillbirth.

For each of these target areas, maternity services will implement new or updated care pathways, best practice recommendations, evaluation strategies, and both face-to-face and eLearning educational modules.
Stillbirth CRE Co-Director Professor David Ellwood said the launch of the Safer Baby Bundle in the ACT was an important step forward towards the national adoption of stillbirth preventative care.

“The ACT joins Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, and Western Australia in rolling out this life-saving intervention to reduce the rate of stillbirth in Australia,” Professor Ellwood said.

“In line with the draft National Stillbirth Action and Implementation Plan, this is a step forward towards ensuring clinicians, regardless of where they work, can have the latest, best-practice evidence at hand.”

Stillbirth CRE Safer Baby Bundle national coordinator Dr Christine Andrews said early success from other jurisdictions highlighted how the interventions outlined in the Safer Baby Bundle could spare families the devastation of losing a baby.

“Data published in the Safer Care Victoria annual report shows that following the launch of the Victorian Government’s Safer Baby Collaborative, between June 2019 and March 2020 there was a 27 per cent reduction in stillbirths,” Dr Andrews said. “This equates to 13 babies’ lives being saved.”

ACT Safer Baby Bundle Implementation Group Chair, Associate Professor Boon Lim, said the Safer Baby Bundle brought further evidence-based strategies to clinical care in the ACT.

“Importantly, the program nurtures a partnership with clinicians and mothers-to-be as part, of a comprehensive way to monitor and improve maternity care, based on information at hand during a pregnancy,” he said.


ENDS

Media Contact

Margaret de Silva
Centre of Research Excellence in Stillbirth
+61 7 3163 2463 | stillbirthcre@mater.uq.edu.au

For more information on the Safer Baby Bundle, visit http://learn.stillbirthcre.org.au

It’s already mid-December, and the start of the holiday season. We’d like to thank all our partners and collaborators for your hard work and ongoing support in what has been an extremely challenging year. We look forward to working with you in 2021 and wish you all the best for the New Year. Please note that our offices will be closed from 21 December 2020 to 4 January 2021.

We know that this time of year can be especially difficult for anyone who has experienced the loss of a child. Our thoughts are with those families who are grieving over the holiday season. If you need support or would just like to talk to someone who understands, contact the Sands 24-hour support line on 1300 072 637.

News + Events

National Stillbirth Action and Implementation Plan

On 10 December, the Stillbirth CRE was honoured to attend the launch of the National Stillbirth Action and Implementation Plan at Parliament House in Canberra.

The National Stillbirth Action and Implementation Plan’s primary goal is to reduce stillbirths by at least 20 per cent over the next five years, with the Federal Government pledging $11 million to implement the plan.

The plan has bipartisan support in Parliament and is the culmination of years of work by researchers, advocates and parents. The plan’s five key priority areas, with recommended actions for the short, medium and long-term, are:

1. Ensuring high quality stillbirth prevention and care

2. Raising awareness and strengthening education

3. Improving holistic bereavement care and community support following stillbirth

4. Improving stillbirth reporting and data collection

5. Prioritising stillbirth research

The National Stillbirth Action and Implementation Plan is available on the Department of Health website at www.health.gov.au/maternity.

COCOON Global Study

Stillbirth CRE launched the COCOON global study in association with the International Stillbirth Alliance in 2020 to better understand how the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted maternity and bereavement care services across the world. Initial findings show that expectant parents and mothers who have experienced stillbirth are experiencing high levels of anxiety during this pandemic with improvements to care needed.

 As the pandemic continues to affect individuals and health services worldwide, COCOON will continue in early 2021. 

We would particularly like to understand the experiences and concerns of parents who have experienced a stillbirth or neonatal death during the pandemic. This will help improve future care, particularly bereavement care, for families around the world during COVID-19 and other future health crises.  Please share this study widely with family, friends, colleagues and patients. 

COCOON Global Research

Safer Baby Bundle Launches in QLD, WA and ACT

The Safer Baby Bundle has officially launched in more health jurisdictions across Australia, with Queensland, Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory joining Victoria and New South Wales in rolling out the program designed to keep more pregnant women and their babies safe during pregnancy.

The Safer Baby Bundle provides evidence-based resources including care pathways, eLearning modules, and  best practice recommendations for maternity health care providers on five elements of the bundle: Smoking Cessation, Fetal Growth Restriction (FGR), Decreased Fetal Movements (DFM), Maternal Side Sleeping, and Timing of Birth.

For more information visit the Safer Baby Bundle or access the eLearning material.

Rural and Remote Advisory Group

Maternity health professionals working in rural and remote Australia will help drive stillbirth prevention strategies for remote Australia, thanks to the development of the new Rural and Remote Advisory Group within the Stillbirth CRE.

This group has helped guide the development and testing of the pilot Safer Baby Bundle Rural and Remote Masterclass, which took place on 11 December. Feedback from this pilot webinar will be used to adapt our key recommendations for stillbirth prevention to ensure they meet the needs of people in rural and remote regions of Australia. For more information, contact stillbirthcre@mater.uq.edu.au

New Resources

New Lancet Global Health Article

A new study published in The Lancet Global Health highlights the importance of midwife-led care in low and middle income countries to reduce the rate of stillbirth.

Burnet Institute co-director and Stillbirth CRE investigator Professor Caroline Homer is the senior author on the paper, titled "Potential impact of midwives in preventing and reducing maternal and neonatal mortality and stillbirths: a Lives Saved Tool" modelling study. The study found that scaling up midwife-led care globally has the potential to save the lives of 4.3 million mothers and newborns annually by 2035. Read about the study

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Stillbirth Statistics Released

The latest data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) shows there were 2,115 stillbirths in Australia in 2018, with little change in rates in over two decades. At the same time, the neonatal death rate in Australia has decreased by 30%. The AIHW data records Australia’s rate of late pregnancy stillbirth (after 28 weeks’ gestation) as 2.4 per 1000 births; a small reduction over the past 20 years.

Full web report from the AIHW 

 New Safer Baby Bundle Resources and Position Statement

Maternity healthcare professionals can now access the latest Safer Baby Bundle resources via the Safer Baby Bundle implementation guide. New resources include 23 language translations for posters about maternal sleep position, smoking cessation and decreased fetal movements. We’d like to thank all the translators and collaborators who have worked diligently to create these important resources. 

The Stillbirth CRE has also worked with collaborators to develop a new continuity of carer statement. This statement is designed to complement the five elements of the Safer Baby Bundle. The Stillbirth CRE recognises the positive impact continuity of care can have for all women and particularly women with known risk factors for stillbirth.

The statement can be found here on the CRE website.

IMPROVE Webinar Recording Now Available

On Wednesday 4 November, the Stillbirth CRE partnered with the Perinatal Society of Australia and New Zealand (PSANZ) to officially launch the IMPROVE eLearning module – an online training package designed to support healthcare professionals responding to women and families who have experienced stillbirth, conduct perinatal autopsy and mortality reviews, and communicate with bereaved parents.

This virtual event included an overview of the training content by Professor Adrienne Gordon, presentation by bereaved parent and Stillbirth Foundation Ambassador Ann-Maree Imrie, and formal launch by Nicole Flint MP on behalf of Federal Minister for Health, Greg Hunt. A recording of this webinar is now available

“Stillbirth in Australia” Series Published in Women and Birth

A new six-part series authored by members of the Stillbirth CRE is now available in the journal Women and Birth: Journal of the Australian College of Midwives. The series, titled “Stillbirth in Australia, presents an overview of stillbirth rates in Australia and key activities that led to the development of the National Stillbirth Action and Implementation Plan. Inequities in stillbirth rates, initiatives to prevent stillbirth, and the need for respectful parent-centred care and further research are also highlighted throughout the series.

You can access the series via the Women and Birth website.

UN Report and Recording Now Available

In October, the Stillbirth CRE partnered with UNICEF and WHO for the virtual launch of the first ever global stillbirth estimates report.

Ending preventable stillbirths: A renewed call for collective action featured parent and caregiver voices, as well as a discussion around the results of the report. 

Nearly 2,000 people attended, and many contributed throughout the event. We hope that this engagement will continue to ensure that progress is made to help end preventable stillbirths. To watch the recording and view the slides, please click here.

New Quit Resources for Pregnant Women

More pregnant women and their partners will be supported to stop smoking with new Australian resources designed for their treating health professionals.

The resources­ —clinical guidelines and an online training package—have been developed by Quit and Alfred Health to help GPs, obstetricians, midwives and pharmacists have a simple conversation and provide best practice care so pregnant women and their partners may lead healthier lives for themselves and their babies.

The guidelines support the Safer Baby Bundle, and have been endorsed by RANZCOG, the Australian College of Midwives and the Stillbirth CRE, and are recognised as an Accepted Clinical Resource by the RACGP. See http://quit.org.au/maternity for details.

PhD Research Updates

The Stillbirth CRE PhD top up scholarship is designed to support exceptional PhD candidates whose projects align with the Stillbirth CRE priority areas and make a meaningful contribution to stillbirth research. Find out what our current top-up scholars have been up to below.

Applications for the 2021 PhD top-up scholarship are now open. Find out more about eligibility criteria and how to apply here.

Roshan Selvaratnam

Roshan is currently undertaking an accelerated PhD pathway within his Doctor of Medicine (MD) studies at Monash University. His studies address the detection and management of fetal growth restriction at a whole-of-population level, with the intent of improving care and reducing stillbirth. Most recently, Roshan's work was the subject of a Perspectives piece that he wrote for the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) on the Australian Safer Baby Bundle. It received considerable media coverage, including being selected for the MJA Podcast and by Norman Swan for the Health Report on Radio National.

Roshan's work has led to the development of balance measures to quantify and make visible the potential unintended harm of driving to reduce stillbirth. The Safer Baby Bundle has embraced Roshan’s balance measures into their program and evaluation. Roshan’s PhD work has also earned him the RANZCOG Aldo Vacca Award, the PSANZ David Henderson-Smart Scholarship, and the SRI President’s Presenter’s Award. He is now turning his focus to looking at the long-term outcomes of fetal growth restriction.

Anneka Bowman

Anneka is a PhD student from the University of Adelaide based in South Australia. Her research focuses on lifestyle, environmental and sociodemographic risks associated with stillbirth. This year Anneka and her team have completed data extraction for a large systematic review examining these risk factors and their impact in high income countries. After extraction of some 400 studies, the analysis is now underway.

Anneka’s second project entails utilisation of a large local perinatal dataset encompassing all births within South Australia (SA) from 1998 to 2016. This dataset reviews the same lifestyle and environmental risk factors, identified in the systematic review, and their association with stillbirth across SA. This research identifies populations at risk, occupational groups at risk, and further investigated the impact of potential risk mitigation strategies and where we should focus our efforts to reduce stillbirth rates in SA. Drafting of the final manuscript is currently underway.

Jessica Sexton

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the NHMRC Stillbirth CRE top-up Scholarship has supported Jessica’s attendance at two online training workshops for machine learning and artificial intelligence in addition to supporting professional memberships to the Australian Society of Medical Research (ASMR), Statistical Association of Australia (SSA), and the Australasian Epidemiological Association (AEA). The scholarship also directly supported remote research activities that have resulted in a published commentary, published protocol, two systematic reviews (one currently under peer review), and two additional analysis manuscripts (in prep).

With support of the Stillbirth CRE, Jessica was able to travel to Canberra in March 2020 prior to COVID-19 lockdown to perform risk prediction modelling analyses at the Data Integration Services Centre (DISC) Lab at the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Using preliminary evidence of spatial clustering of risk factors for stillbirth at the Mater Mothers’ Hospital in Brisbane, a new project is now underway to explore spatial associations of stillbirth in Queensland. Through this top-up scholarship and with support from collaborators, new evidence that improves our understanding of stillbirth epidemiology has been established.

Alyce Wilson

Dr Alyce Wilson is a public health medicine registrar and PhD candidate at the Burnet Institute and the University of Melbourne. Alyce is leading a multi-site quality improvement research study aiming to improve the quality of care during labour and childbirth in five high-burden, low-resource health facilities in rural Papua New Guinea (PNG). This year Alyce published a scoping review examining existing interventions in the Pacific region to improve the quality of maternal and newborn care (available here). She completed data collection in early 2020 and is now in the process of analysing her PhD data and writing up the findings.

Alyce is very grateful for the support of the Stillbirth CRE top-up scholarship, which will provide funding for study trips to PNG to maintain stakeholder relationships, support the local research team in Kokopo with project coordination and provision of training in appropriate research standards and approaches, and share findings with key stakeholders in East New Britain. Unfortunately, COVID-19 disrupted some of these plans for 2020 but Alyce has continued to work with the team in East New Britain to coordinate a workshop to discuss study findings and plan quality improvement interventions with obstetric, midwifery and paediatric colleagues in East New Britain. Thank you Stillbirth CRE for your generous support!

In the Media

Professor Vicki Flenady Featured on ABC BabyTalk Podcast

Stillbirth CRE director Professor Vicki Flenady spoke to Penny Johnston, host of the ABC’s BabyTalk podcast, about stillbirth research, prevention, and the risk factors for preventable stillbirths. You can listen to the podcast online here or download via iTunes, Spotify or other hosted platforms.

The Courier Mail on the Launch of IMPROVE

On 8 November, The Courier Mail published an article titled “Despair to discovery: Autopsy after stillbirth might hold key to cutting rate”. The article outlines how IMPROVE offers maternity health professionals new resources to provide supportive care after stillbirth, conduct perinatal autopsies, and better communicate with bereaved parents.


A new online learning module designed to help healthcare professionals in Australia and New Zealand provide supportive and sensitive care to families who experience a stillbirth launched today.

In partnership with the Perinatal Society of Australia and New Zealand (PSANZ), the Centre of Research Excellence in Stillbirth (Stillbirth CRE) has released IMPROVE ‘IMproving Perinatal Mortality Review and Outcomes Via Education’ — a new eLearning course for healthcare professionals based on the latest Clinical Guideline for Care Around Stillbirth and Neonatal Death.

Six babies a day are stillborn in Australia. For many, the loss occurs unexpectedly toward the end of a pregnancy, with nearly 40 per cent of the stillbirths that occur when a mother has carried their baby full term remaining unexplained.

In 2018, the Senate Select Committee Inquiry into Stillbirth Research and Education heard compelling evidence from bereaved parents about how the care they received from clinicians following their baby’s death either helped or compounded their suffering.

The IMPROVE course has a chapter dedicated to helping healthcare professionals provide respectful and supportive perinatal bereavement care through good communication, shared decision making, acknowledgement, and the provision of clear and consistent information.

Another chapter is dedicated to helping healthcare professionals communicate sensitively with parents about perinatal autopsies. In Australia, autopsy rates for stillbirth remain low, at around 36 per cent.

Stillbirth CRE Director Professor Vicki Flenady encouraged everyone working in maternity health to complete the IMPROVE eLearning Module.

“The IMPROVE program has been developed to give all clinicians the knowledge and skills they need to provide the best possible care for bereaved parents and families,” Professor Flenady said.

The IMPROVE eLearning resource will also help prevent perinatal deaths by improving investigations, classification and identification of contributing factors in stillbirths, data collection, and understanding of risk factors.

Sydney Neonatologist and Stillbirth CRE Investigator, Professor Adrienne Gordon said the IMPROVE eLearning tool was important, because “high quality data is the cornerstone of stillbirth prevention.”

“While it is often hard for parents to contemplate an autopsy for their baby, there is increasing evidence that if a stillborn baby has an autopsy, then this may help parents in their grieving process, to understand what went wrong, and to help in planning if there is a subsequent pregnancy,” Professor Gordon said.

The IMPROVE resource has been endorsed by organisations including, The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine, The Australian and New Zealand NeoNatal Network, The Australian College of Midwives,

Women’s Healthcare Australasia, the Stillbirth Foundation Australia, SANDS and Red Nose.

Australia’s annual rate of stillbirth reduction is 1.4 per cent, more than six times slower than the best performing country. More than 200 stillbirths occurring after 28 weeks’ gestation could be prevented every year if Australian and New Zealand matched that of the best performing countries.

The IMPROVE eLearning Module can be found at: https://learn.stillbirthcre.org.au/improve

ENDS


Margaret de Silva
Centre of Research Excellence in Stillbirth
+61 7 3163 2463 | stillbirthcre@mater.uq.edu.au

Safer Baby Bundle to Help Reduce the Rate of Stillbirth in Western Australia

Western Australia has joined a new initiative to tackle the nation’s stillbirth rate.

The Safer Baby Bundle is a range of resources and interventions designed to reduce Australia’s incidence of late-gestation stillbirth (after 28 weeks).

Across Australia, an average of six infants are stillborn every day, a rate that has changed little in more than two decades.

Research suggests that almost a third of these deaths are preventable

Developed by the National Health and Medical Research Council Centre of Research Excellence in Stillbirth (Stillbirth CRE), the Safer Baby Bundle gives maternity health providers evidence-based training and support to keep more women and their babies safe through pregnancy.

The Stillbirth CRE initiative covers five elements to reduce the rate of stillbirth from 28
weeks:

  1. Supporting women to stop smoking in pregnancy.
  2. Improving detection and management of fetal growth restriction.
  3. Raising awareness and improving care for women with decreased fetal movements.
  4. Improving awareness of sleeping on either side from 28 weeks; and
  5. Improving shared decision-making around timing of birth for women with risk factors
    for stillbirth.

A key aim of the bundle is to encourage healthcare providers to talk to patients about their
risk of stillbirth and how their care throughout pregnancy can be personalised according to
their risk profile.

The bundle includes care pathways, best practice recommendations, evaluation strategies,
and both face-to-face and eLearning educational modules.

Stillbirth CRE Director Professor Vicki Flenady said this life-saving intervention was necessary to support clinicians reduce preventable stillbirths.

“The Safer Baby Bundle initiative has been designed so clinicians, regardless of where they work, can access our eLearning modules and have the latest, best-practice evidence at hand,” Professor Flenady said.

Stillbirth CRE co-director Professor David Ellwood said the bundle promoted respectful care and shared decision making, with the potential to improve women’s and families’ experience of maternity care. “We believe the bundle has the potential to reduce not only stillbirth rates but also to improve other outcomes for mothers and babies in Australia,” Professor Ellwood said.

Overseas, similar bundles of care have been shown to be very successful in reducing the rate
of stillbirth.

The Safer Baby Bundle aims to reduce Australia’s stillbirth rate after 28 weeks by at least 20 per cent by 2023.

ENDS

Media Contact

Margaret de Silva
Centre of Research Excellence in Stillbirth
+61 7 3163 2463 | stillbirthcre@mater.uq.edu.au

For more information on the Safer Baby Bundle, visit http://learn.stillbirthcre.org.au

With the impacts of COVID-19 still ongoing, we extend our thoughts to the Melbourne community, who have been affected most by restrictions in Australia. We hope you are all keeping safe and well and send a special message of support to our healthcare workers.

The Stillbirth CRE co-ordinating team continues to work from home and abide by social distancing recommendations and we are working hard to ensure that women and families continue to receive important and up-to-date information on stillbirth prevention.

We are looking forward to a very busy last few months of the year as we launch the Safer Baby Bundle in Queensland and Western Australia, and the new IMPROVE eLearning module for healthcare professionals. We hope to see you there via Zoom!

Take care and best wishes from the Stillbirth CRE.

International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month

October is International Pregnancy and Infant Loss (IPIL) Awareness Month. This is a special time for bereaved parents and families to honour, celebrate and share precious memories of their babies. It is also an opportunity for families, friends and the broader community to come together to help raise awareness of miscarriage, stillbirth and newborn death – tragedies that affect thousands of families each year. 

There are many ways you can become involved in IPIL month to show your support and help raise awareness of pregnancy and infant loss.

Each year, events and services are held around Australia that bring bereaved parents and families together in remembrance. As our world is looking very different this year due to COVID-19 and social distancing, some IPIL events and services are turning virtual. Click on each event below to find out more.

SANDS - Walk to Remember Bears of Hope – Choosing Hope , Light Up the Night , Lullabies and Loss Victorian Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Service

If you are unable to attend an in-person event or virtual service, you can simply take part in the global ‘Wave of Light’ by lighting a candle at 7pm local time to commemorate all the babies we have lost too soon.

We send a message of support to parents and families who have experienced pregnancy and infant loss, no matter how long ago. Your babies drive our work each day and support is always available through SANDS and Red Nose.

IMPROVE eLearning Launch

On Wednesday 4th November, The Stillbirth CRE will be launching the new IMPROVE eLearning module – an online training package designed to support healthcare professionals responding to women and families who have experienced stillbirth, conduct perinatal autopsy and mortality reviews, and communicate with bereaved parents.

We invite you to join the virtual event at 6pm Sydney time, which will include an overview of the training content by Professor Adrienne Gordon, presentation by bereaved parent and Stillbirth Foundation Ambassador Ann-Maree Imrie and formal launch by Nicole Flint MP on behalf of Minister for Health, Greg Hunt.

To register, please click here.

Safer Baby Bundle QLD and WA Launch

After postponing the Safer Baby Bundle launch events in Queensland and Western Australia earlier in the year due to COVID-19, we are pleased to announce new dates in October and November.

The Safer Baby Bundle will launch in Queensland on the 28th and 29th of October, and on the 3rd of November in Western Australia.

More information - Safer Baby Bundle

News

A Neglected Tragedy: The Global Burden of Stillbirths

Report Launch and Virtual Forum

A stillbirth occurs somewhere in the world every 16 seconds, according to the first ever joint estimates report released by UNICEF, WHO, the World Bank Group and the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

The report, a critical milestone in improving the availability of global data, finds that despite progress being made since 2000, stillbirths have not declined as rapidly as maternal and newborn mortality. If current trends continue, an additional 19 million stillbirths will take place before 2030. Severe COVID-19 related disruptions in health care services could also result in an additional 200,000 stillbirths throughout 117 low-and middle-income countries over the next 12 months.

The overlooked tragedy of stillbirth demands urgent attention. To end preventable stillbirths,  we must increase visibility, remove stigma, raise parent and caregiver voices, strengthen health systems to provide high-quality care and improve data quality.

The Stillbirth Centre of Research Excellence will be partnering with UNICEF and WHO for the virtual launch of the report on Wednesday 21st October at 10pm QLD time. Please join us as we raise awareness and help end preventable stillbirths.

To register, please click here.

Release of Every New Coverage Targets and Milestones to 2025

On 3rd September 2020, the Every Newborn collaboration, led by UNICEF and WHO, launched the new Every Newborn 2025 targets and milestones, marking the next step in the global effort to end preventable stillbirths and newborn deaths.

The event presented four new targets and nine corresponding milestones to 2025 and featured discussion on how to strengthen and improve access to high-quality maternal and newborn health services.

To read about the targets and milestones, as well as the full report, please click here.

While there is significant work to ensure pregnancy and childbirth is safer for mothers and their babies globally, progress has been made in reducing stillbirth rates in Australia since the initial Every Newborn Action Plan launch in 2014, and we are pleased to report the Safer Baby Bundle has contributed to this reduction.

Health services participating in the Safer Baby Collaborative across Victoria have reported an encouraging 27 percent decrease in stillbirth rates throughout the state.

We hope to see more signs of progress as the Safer Baby Bundle rolls out in Queensland and Western Australia over the next six weeks.

Research Updates

What is the Stillbirth CRE doing to reduce disparities in stillbirth?

Recognising the need for a focus on communities at risk, the Stillbirth CRE has established an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (Indigenous) Advisory Group to support leadership and co-design of all research, education and policy initiatives. Current activities include the development of a series of short videos to start a public conversation about stillbirth prevention and bereavement care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and communities. In addition, resources developed for the Safer Baby Bundle are being adapted into a series of webinar masterclasses specifically for Aboriginal Health Workers, to ensure the Aboriginal health workforce has a variety of means of accessing stillbirth prevention information. Consultations are also underway to support the first national stillbirth research priority setting exercise among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Deanna Stuart-Butler, Indigenous Advisory Group Chair

Deanna Stuart-Butler is an Arabana women whose country is the Lake Eyre Region of South Australia. She currently chairs the Stillbirth CRE Indigenous Advisory Group. She has more than 18 years’ experience in Aboriginal maternity health services. She is particularly interested in translating research into operational practices within mainstream maternity models and the clinical space. Her passion comes from seeing the injustice of pregnant Aboriginal women first hand, relentlessly pursuing equal and equitable access for Aboriginal women at a National, State and local level. With her drive and commitment, she always hopes to stimulate reflection on the approach used by clinicians in Aboriginal women’s health care, always ensuring that Cultural needs are respected.

Associate Professor Fran Boyle, Co-lead Care After Stillbirth Program

Associate Professor Fran Boyle is a Health Services Researcher at The University of Queensland’s Institute for Social Science Research and a Principal Investigator with the Stillbirth CRE, where she co-leads the Care After Stillbirth Program. Fran has qualifications in psychology and public health, and is engaged in health services research and evaluation in a range of hospital and community settings. She is passionate about improving care for parents and families when a baby dies and, like many who are drawn to research and practice in this area, this passion began with her own lived experience of the loss of her first baby soon after birth. Fran is deeply committed to ensuring that policy and practice around perinatal bereavement care reflects both the latest evidence and the perspectives of parents. 

One of the current Stillbirth CRE projects being conducted by Fran and her team involves the development of a resource to help bereaved parents navigate difficult discussions following the loss of a baby. Funded by Stillbirth Foundation Australia, this resource is being designed as a parent-facing version of the Clinical Practice Guideline for Respectful and Supportive Perinatal Bereavement Care, which was developed by the Stillbirth CRE and the Perinatal Society of Australia and New Zealand.

To learn more about the Stillbirth CRE’s commitment to improving care for bereaved parents and families, please clickhere.

Burnet Institute’s Knowledge Hub for COVID-19 (Know-C19 Hub)

Public health and policy responses to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic are based on a limited, yet rapidly evolving knowledge and evidence base, including research findings, analysis and early experience from other countries.

The Burnet Institute’s Knowledge Hub for COVID-19 (Know-C19 Hub) is the gateway to these research findings, as well as policy and technical reports. It also features the latest news about Burnet’s COVID-19 work. The Know C-19 Hub will actively seek to address gaps in knowledge and collate and provide novel strategic information on COVID-19 to inform the Australian and International response.

Support needed to help in mapping of COVID-19 Related Pregnancy and Perinatal Research in Australia

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in rapid changes to the delivery of routine maternity care and there is a considerable amount of research being undertaken across Australia. Many of these research projects were established in response to the changes and to the concern about pregnant women becoming infected. This mapping project, being led by the Burnet Institute in collaboration with the Stillbirth CRE, seeks to support all planned and ongoing COVID-19 related maternal and perinatal projects across Australia. A coordinated map of all projects will support researchers undertaking COVID-19 related maternal and perinatal projects, facilitate collaboration and harmonisation, and provide a central place for people to find others doing similar research, including a platform for dissemination through a national network.

If you are working on a project in this field, we ask you to share some details about your project in our brief online survey.

CAMPAIGNS AND MAJOR PROJECTS

Opportunities for parents to participate in research

 Inviting parents to participate in the COCOON Study

We are inviting all mothers and fathers who are pregnant or have given birth to their baby during the COVID-19 pandemic to participate in a global research study to understand the psychosocial impact and changes to care experienced by parents during this time.
 
We particularly want to understand the experiences and concerns of parents who have experienced stillbirth or newborn death during the pandemic. 
 
COCOON aims to help improve future care, with an emphasis on bereavement care, for all families around the world during COVID-19 and other future health crises.
 
Please share this study widely with family, friends, colleagues and patients.

CLICK HERE TO GO TO THE COCOON STUDY

Help improve grief support options for Dads

The Stillbirth CRE are inviting fathers who have experienced a stillbirth or death of their newborn baby within the last 5 years to join our research study to help develop a new online grief support program. The new online program aims to provide an evidence-based support option to help parents navigate grief and build coping strategies and resilience for the longer-term.

Join the conversation and help inform the development of the program here.

Stillbirth Advocacy Working Group Stillbirth Spokesperson Survey

The Stillbirth Advocacy Working Group (SAWG) is a group of bereaved parents, clinicians, researchers, and others who are interested in raising awareness of stillbirth globally so that we can help end preventable stillbirths and ensure appropriate respectful care when these deaths do happen. SAWG is co-chaired by the International Stillbirth Alliance (ISA) and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). The Stillbirth CRE acts as ISA's Western Pacific Regional Office.

With the help of the Stillbirth CRE, SAWG is compiling a list of Stillbirth Spokespersons--individuals with personal experience of stillbirth willing to raise their voices to increase awareness. Stillbirth Spokespersons may be parents, other affected family members, midwives, other clinicians, counsellors, or others with personal experience of stillbirth. SAWG will maintain the Stillbirths Spokespersons list as a resource for the media and other public and private organizations such as United Nations agencies who wish to raise awareness of stillbirth through including the voices of those affected. If you wish to volunteer to be added to the list of Stillbirth Spokespersons, please click on the link below to fill in a brief survey.

Please contact SAWG co-chairs Susannah Leisher shleisher@aol.com or Hannah Blencowe hannah.blencowe@lshtm.ac.uk if you have questions about this survey or are interested in joining SAWG. Thank you!

EVENTS

Webinar Series Recap

Our 2020 National Stillbirth Webinar Series ‘Focus on Stillbirth Prevention and Care’ launched on 22nd July with an opening message from Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt, who reinforced the commitment of the Australian government to stillbirth reduction through the National Stillbirth Action and Implementation Plan.

The webinar series ran over four weeks and was extremely successful, drawing an audience of more than 600 parents, clinicians and researchers.

The webinar series allowed the Stillbirth CRE to continue to provide a platform for engagement for the sector, within the limitations of a COVID-19 environment. It provided a timely opportunity to discuss the latest research and the impact of COVID-19 on the provision of maternity care.

The series was recorded and is now available to an even wider audience through the Stillbirth Centre of Research Excellence website. We would like, once again, to thank all of the speakers for generously providing their time, and for everyone who participated and joined us for the series.

Safer Baby Bundle to Feature in PPESIG Webinar

Dr Christine Andrews, Postdoctoral Research Officer with the Stillbirth CRE, will be presenting an overview of the Safer Baby Bundle: what the initiative aims to achieve and progress to date at the very first Perinatal and Paediatric Special Interest Group(PPESIG) webinar at 11am QLD time on Wednesday 21st October.

For more information about Christine’s presentation and PPESIG, please click here.

PUBLICATIONS

Stillbirth in Australia

We are excited to announce that a six-part series written by members of the Stillbirth CRE has been accepted for publication by Women and Birth: Journal of the Australian College of Midwives.

In the series, titled Stillbirth in Australia, we present an overview of the establishment of the Stillbirth CRE and highlight the key activities that led to the development of a National Stillbirth Action and Implementation Plan. We also discuss the Safer Baby Bundle initiative and inequities for families from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and migrant and refugee backgrounds. Public awareness, respectful, parent-centred care and the future of stillbirth research and education are also highlighted throughout the series.

The series will be available to read via Women and Birth from Tuesday 20th October.

Safer Baby Bundle Rolls Out to Reduce the Rate of Stillbirth in Queensland

Thirty-six hospitals across Queensland will today begin implementing a new program designed to significantly reduce the rate of late gestation stillbirth.

Maternity healthcare professionals across the state—from Queensland’s largest maternity hospitals, Mater Mothers’ Hospital and the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, to smaller regional hospitals in Ayr, Biloela and Thursday Island—will benefit from new training and support to help keep more women and their babies safe through pregnancy.

Six babies are stillborn every day in Australia; a rate that has changed little in two decades. This is despite research indicating up to 30 per cent of stillbirths could be avoided with the provision of better care.

Clinical Excellence Queensland has partnered with the Centre of Research Excellence in Stillbirth (Stillbirth CRE) to deliver the Safer Baby Bundle—a set of clinical recommendations designed to reduce the rate of stillbirth in Queensland by 20 per cent.

Achieving this target would mean around 80 families a year are spared the devastation of having a stillborn baby.

The Safer Baby Bundle is designed to improve the care women and their families receive by targeting five areas where research shows lives can be saved. These are:

  1. Supporting women to stop smoking in pregnancy.
  2. Improving detection and management of fetal growth restriction.
  3. Raising awareness and improving care for women with decreased fetal movements.
  4. Improving awareness of sleeping on either side after 28 weeks.
  5. Improving shared decision-making about the timing of birth for women with risk factors
    for stillbirth.

For each of these target areas, maternity services will implement new or updated care pathways, best practice recommendations, evaluation strategies, and both face-to-face and eLearning educational modules.

Stillbirth CRE Director Professor Vicki Flenady said it was wonderful to see 36 hospitals across Queensland supporting this important, life-saving intervention.

“Unfortunately, the research tells us that the further a woman lives away from a metropolitan area, the greater her risk is of stillbirth. I’m really pleased we have so many hospitals in Queensland participating in the Safer Baby Bundle.”

“The Safer Baby Bundle initiative has been designed so clinicians, regardless of where they work, can access our eLearning modules and have the latest, best-practice evidence at hand. We want all women, regardless of where they live, to access consistent, high quality maternity care.”

Deputy Director-General, Clinical Excellence Queensland, Dr Jillann Farmer said the Safer Baby Bundle was just one way CEQ is supporting health services to deliver better maternity care.

“We have a broad maternity agenda that is seeking to improve care right across the continuum including rural maternity, Midwifery Navigators, midwifery continuity of care, and better supporting women with informed decision making.”

ENDS

Media Contact


Margaret de Silva
Centre of Research Excellence in Stillbirth
+61 7 3163 2463 | stillbirthcre@mater.uq.edu.au

For a full list of the Queensland hospitals involved in the Safer Baby Bundle initiative, go to:
https://clinicalexcellence.qld.gov.au/priority-areas/safety-and-quality/safer-baby-bundle

For more information on the Safer Baby Bundle, visit http://learn.stillbirthcre.org.au

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