For the past couple of months we have been banging on a lot about where we plan on putting our time and energy in 2016. We've been dropping buzzwords and clichéd one liners as often as a Miss Universe contestant claims to address 'world peace'. You've heard us say things like:
"Disadvantage is perpetuated intergenerationally, where do we begin addressing this issue? blah blah blah"
"Lets use 'social innovation' to tackle the big issues blah blah blah", and
"Fetal programming has the potential to mitigate future disadvantage as early blah blah blah"
Well, what does it all mean?
For those playing along at home, we have been making some headway and working out the logistics of what exactly we will be 'doing'. In late 2015 we held our "Inaugural Fetal Programming Planning Workshop". Sounds impressive, in reality it was two grown men, having a beer, spinning some records and working through the evidence behind the fetal programming hypothesis - that the prenatal period is the most important to human development and is modifiable in many cases.
So, you've all got shit to do, lets get to it. This is what we've found so far.
Low birth weight and pre term birth can be used to predict a range of outcomes throughout life including: developmental delay, chronic disease, mental health, educational attainment and employment. If low birth weight and pre term birth have such long lasting effect, why are we not putting more effort into ensuring all lives begin with the same foundation? We've listed some of the academic literature below.
Low birth weight and preterm birth costs the hospital system a huge amount of money. A study in the US reports that a healthy birthweight child spends on average 1.9 days in hospital ($600) compared to 12.9 days for a low birth weight child ($15,000). We are happy enough to shell out $15k per child in hospital expenses but somewhat less willing to invest some of that $15k in prevention. Costs aren't limited to the days immediately spent in hospital after birth either, evidence suggests society incurs costs in later life also; in schools, prisons, unemployment, disease, disability and lost economic productivity. If this is true (which it is), can we demonstrate that this money can be repurposed to prevent poor birth outcomes?
Poor birth outcomes can be predicted. Setting aside the very extreme cases, a significant number of low birth weight and pre term babies are modifiable through environmental, behavioural and clinical support. How do we get disadvantaged mothers access to a range of appropriate services at the level of intensity required to have a positive effect on birth outcomes?
We feel that a 'do what it takes' attitude should be taken to provide support for pregnant women in disadvantaged areas to ensure that all children have the opportunity to thrive. We geniuenily beleive that this doesn't only make financial sense, but is 100% the right thing to do!
To do this, we are wanting to measure the impact of community-based intensive, coordinated and locally delivered services in the prenatal period on birth outcomes.
Does a focussed intervention have a positive effect on fetal development? Can we prove that investment in the prenatal period reduce, at the very least, the immediate hospital costs?
2016 will be a big year - stick with us to find out how we roll this puppy out. We're currently in the process of pitching a more detailed and polished version of this idea to potential partners! We are keen to get your thoughts on our pitch.
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