Medibank and Monash University launch OptimalMe
Medibank has partnered with leaders in reproductive health from Monash University, trialling a unique healthy lifestyle program aimed at providing the best health information and support for mums-to-be and ultimately their children.
OptimalMe is Australia’s first pre-pregnancy to post-birth study. Launching 1 July 2020, the national research trial and pregnancy health program will be delivered via telephone and online, with no face-to-face contact required.
The research will be led by Dr Cheryce Harrison and Professor Helena Teede from Monash Centre for Health Research and Implementation, at Monash University in Melbourne. It is being funded by the Medibank Better Health Foundation, which has a focus on improving public health in Australia.
For the first time, researchers will be able to support a large cohort of women not yet pregnant, but soon hope to be.
Monash University’s Dr Cheryce Harrison said knowing more about health and wellbeing from this pre-pregnancy group will have implications for all women hoping to have a child in the future and pave the way for this kind of support to become routine care in Australia.
“It’s the first opportunity we’ve had to support women from preconception through to the delivery of their baby. Supporting women to optimise healthy lifestyle behaviours before trying to conceive is the best way to start a pregnancy for women and their babies. Not only is it important for fertility, it increases the likelihood of healthy weight gain throughout pregnancy with benefits for both mother and baby,” said Dr Harrison.
Medibank's Head of Member Health Service Design & Strategy Dr Catherine Keating said research shows women who are actively planning a pregnancy are often looking for trusted preconception care information. However, finding these sources can be overwhelming.
Women looking to have a baby often check in with us to discuss their level of private health insurance cover. But from now, we will also start recruiting 300 eligible Medibank customers nationally from ages 18 to 44 to take part in the research. These customers will also receive additional health and lifestyle support.
Planning a pregnancy is a critical window of opportunity, with women wanting guidance to help their baby be as healthy as possible.
“Gaining weight is a normal, healthy part of pregnancy, but encouraging a woman to ‘eat for two’, may increase the risk of pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes. Weight is a sensitive topic and a source of anxiety for many women. This will be respected in this study. It’s tailored to each participant and will include online and telephone support – meaning women can participate from home,” added Dr Keating.
“We hope the results of this study will demonstrate that OptimalMe is a feasible way to reach women planning a pregnancy, will optimise their health and wellbeing, and ultimately decrease the rates of complications, while expanding knowledge for women, their doctors and policy makers,” said Dr Harrison.
Monash University’s Professor Teede and Dr Harrison have already led two ground-breaking studies. One revealed around 50% of women gain too much weight during pregnancy while 25% gain too little weight – both of which can cause adverse outcomes such as complicated or premature births. The other study showed that healthy lifestyle changes can protect against weight-related pregnancy complications.
These studies confirm Medibank’s own data from 14,122 births in 2019, which showed an increasing trend of pregnancy-related adverse health outcomes and gestational diabetes in one out of every eight pregnancies.
Last year, Medibank and Monash launched Australia’s first ethnically diverse gestational weight gain calculator, which has already been accessed more than 80,000 times.
The calculator sits on the new Medibank Planning, Pregnancy and Families hub with information on Medibank’s new sleep and settling services, an ovulation tracker, due date calculator and ‘what to expect’ information. Customers can find the right provider for their care, learn more about out of pocket costs and ways to reduce them. Eligible customers will also be supported with specialised telehealth support at no extra cost, with advice ranging from fertility to early parenting.
We’re now inviting eligible Medibank customers to take part in the OptimalMe study:
If you’re interested in receiving online and phone support to optimise your health from preconception to post-birth, and you’re a Medibank customer aged 18 – 44 years of age with a level of cover that includes pregnancy and birth, register your interest with Monash University here (https://optimalme.org/auth/register)
Monash University will manage eligibility for the study. If you have trouble accessing the link, contact Josphin Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to editors:
Once pregnant, 50% of women have excessive gestational weight gain and 65% retain weight post-birth. Each excess kilo gained is linked to a 10% increase in adverse maternal and neonatal outcomes (sources below).
Expected trial outcomes may include improved preconception health behaviours, adherence to international gestational weight gain recommendations in pregnancy, reduced pregnancy complications (gestational diabetes, caesarean rates and neonatal admissions) and fewer women with post-birth weight retention.
*All data is Medibank data only; does not include ahm.
Goldstein RF, Abell SK, Ranasinha S, et al. Association of Gestational Weight Gain With Maternal and Infant Outcomes: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA. 2017;317(21):2207–2225. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.3635
Effect of diet and physical activity-based interventions in pregnancy on gestational weight gain and pregnancy outcomes: meta-analysis of individual participant data from randomised trials BMJ 2017; 358: j3119
Once pregnant, 50% of women have excessive gestational weight gain and 65% retain weight post-birth.
Goldstein RF, Abell SK, Ranasinha S, et al. Association of Gestational Weight Gain With Maternal and Infant Outcomes: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA. 2017;317(21):2207–2225. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.3635 Rasmussen K, & Yaktine AL (Eds). Institute of Medicine and National Research Council Committee to Reexamine IOM Pregnancy Weight Guidelines. Weight Gain During Pregnancy: Reexamining the Guidelines. Washington DC: National Academic Press; 2009 Harrison C, Lombard CB & Teede HJ. Understanding health behaviours in a cohort of pregnant women at risk of gestational diabetes mellitus: an observational study. BJOG 2012;119(6):731-8.
Each excess kilo gained is linked to a 10% increase in adverse maternal and neonatal outcomes.
Cedergren MI. Optimal gestational weight gain for body mass index categories. Obstet Gynecol. 2007;110(4):759-64.