Australian midwives and other maternity services clinicians will be trained in a nation-wide bereavement program, thanks to a $980,000 grant awarded by the Federal Government today to enhance support for parents who experience the death of a baby during pregnancy (miscarriage or stillbirth) or soon after birth (neonatal death).
The Stillbirth Centre of Research Excellence (Stillbirth CRE), based at Mater Research and as a collaboration between Mater Research and The University of Queensland, will use the funding over four-years to address the educational needs of healthcare professionals in providing appropriate and respectful best practice care to grieving families.
Stillbirth CRE Director and Professor Vicki Flenady said more than 2,200 babies are stillborn each year in Australia, and many grieving families are not receiving the level of care they need.
“The death of a baby during pregnancy is devastating for parents and families, and can lead to significant emotional distress, long-lasting grief and psychological illness,” Professor Flenady said.
“There is still a significant gap in delivering consistent, high quality bereavement care across Australia, with health professionals reporting various barriers including referral pathways to allied health providers, and lack of education and training.
“This funding will go a long way towards bridging that gap, by enhancing Stillbirth CRE’s IMPROVE program for healthcare professionals, so they have the skills and resources they need to confidently and respectfully respond to parents and families who have experienced stillbirth and miscarriage.”
One in six babies born in Australia each day are stillborn and up to one in five confirmed pregnancies end in miscarriage before 20 weeks.
The rates are higher among specific groups including First Nations people, culturally and linguistically diverse families, refugee and migrant communities, women and families living in rural and remote areas, and women under 20 years old.
Chief Investigator Dr Siobhan Loughnan (Senior Research Officer, Stillbirth CRE) says this funding will improve the quality of care and outcomes for parents and families who experience perinatal loss in Australia.
“Best practice care is vital and relies on frontline maternity care providers who are equipped for this challenging role,” Dr Loughnan said.
“We will enhance and expand our existing successful education program to holistically address the training and education needs of healthcare professional including greater focus on cultural safety and inclusiveness for First Nations, South Asian and African-born families; early pregnancy loss and miscarriage care in a subsequent pregnancy after loss; and also acknowledging and supporting the emotional wellbeing of healthcare professionals who care for parents at this devastating time.
“The National Stillbirth Action and Implementation Plan recognises stillbirth as a public health issue and includes actions to address equity gaps, such as the need for culturally appropriate bereavement care.
“Each of these communities has different needs and we want to ensure they feel understood and supported through this difficult journey.
“In having harmonised and consistent information and resources for clinicians and parents thorough this national education program, we can make a significant difference in caring for grieving parents and families not just medically, but emotionally.”
The grant, announced today by Federal Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care Ged Kearney, will ensure enhanced capability and understanding by clinicians of bereavement care. “Stillbirth can have a devastating impact on women and their families, resulting in ongoing grief, anxiety and depression as well as social and financial losses,” Assistant Minister Kearney said. “Our Government is committed to reducing the tragedy of stillbirths on our nation, and particularly to support those in our community who experience stillbirth and miscarriage at a disproportionately high rate to receive timely and appropriate care.”
Anita Hastings, Mater Communications
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Centre of Research Excellence in Stillbirth
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