More than 2,100 babies are stillborn in Australia every year - a statistic that hasn’t changed in nearly 30 years.
A Queensland professor and her team are determined to make a difference this International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month.
Director of the Centre of Research Excellence in Stillbirth Mater Research Institute-University of Queensland’s Professor Vicki Flenady said the Centre aimed to reduce the number of stillbirths by 20 per cent over the next four years.
"The month of October, we commemorate and remember all babies who have been lost through early pregnancy loss, stillbirth, newborn and infant deaths," Professor Flenady said.
"It's a time when we pause to acknowledge the grief of parents and families and to honour the precious babies they have lost.
"It’s important to acknowledge the grief of families and to understand that this is a loss of a child and family member - the quality of the care received in hospital and in the community can make a huge difference."
The Centre of Research Excellence in Stillbirth focuses on stillbirth prevention and bereavement care, developing educational resources, working with communities, and collaborating with national and international partners.
It recently received renewed federal funding of $2.5 million over five years.
"We have effective, evidence-based solutions to reduce up to 30 per cent of late gestation stillbirths - beyond 28 weeks gestation - but urgent action is needed to effectively translate these into maternity care," Professor Flenady said.
"We also need to make sure that best possible care is in place when stillbirth does occur."
In Australia, six babies are stillborn every day and globally a stillbirth occurs every 16 seconds, totalling almost two million annually.
While the occurrence of stillbirth is felt more acutely in low and middle-income nations (including several of Australia’s close neighbours in the Pacific), many high-income nations could substantially reduce their rates as well.
Alongside the Aboriginal and Torres Strait community, Australian women from South Asian or African migrant and refugee backgrounds are twice as likely to experience stillbirth as other women.
"Our vision is to reduce that devastating impact on women, families and the wider community," Professor Flenady said.
"In previous years our Centre has been a major contributor to the 2018 Senate Inquiry into Stillbirth in Australia, and will be integral to the success of the Stillbirth National Action and Implementation Plan.
"Our multidisciplinary team, including internationally recognised experts, will continue to play a critical role in uniting global leaders, researchers, parent advocacy and service organisations, and care providers with policy makers.
"Reducing the persistent tragedy of stillbirth has never been more achievable and Australia is now at a critical turning point, where it is poised to deliver solutions through collaboration."
A firm target of reducing Australia’s stillbirth rate by 20 per cent before 2025 is in place.
The Centre of Research Excellence in Stillbirth has intentions to improve outcomes internationally by focussing on the Western Pacific region as part of the International Stillbirth Alliance.
Funding of Centres of Research Excellence (CREs) by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) is primarily to improve health outcomes and promote or improve translation of research outcomes into policy and/or practice.
UQ’s Forgan Smith building will be lit up pink and blue in honour of International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day on October 15.
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