Monash to host new centre for women’s sexual and reproductive health in primary care

Monash University will host a new $2.5 million NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in women’s sexual and reproductive health in primary care.

The multi-disciplinary and patient-focussed Centre, known as SPHERE, will be run by the Head of Monash University’s Department of General Practice, Professor Danielle Mazza.

It was among six funded Monash University research projects announced by Federal Minister for Health Greg Hunt in Canberra yesterday at the Women’s Health Forum.

Professor Mazza said: “the awarding of SPHERE recognises the integral role of general practitioners practising throughout Australia in providing sexual and reproductive health care for almost 5.6 million Australian women of reproductive age and the need to invest in health services research and knowledge translation in Australian primary care, particularly in general practice. SPHERE will close profound evidence practice gaps and improve Australian women’s access to high quality, evidence-based and accessible sexual and reproductive health services.”

“The Centre will bring about a paradigm shift in the way GPs and other primary care practitioners deliver preconception, contraception and abortion services, through an integrated life course approach to help women achieve their own reproductive goals. We will do this through broad collaboration – collaborations between researchers, healthcare providers, health service delivery organisations, policymakers, peak bodies for women’s health in Australia, and consumers,” she added.

Minister Hunt also announced funding for trials by Monash University researcher Tracey Edgell of a blood test that can predict whether an IVF cycle will be successful, potentially saving couples thousands of dollars in treatments.

The test would reduce the high rate of failure for IVF treatments in Australia, where almost 70,000 treatments are done every year.

The other projects include:

Dr Aya Mousa – research examining whether certain lipid species contribute to gestational diabetes development and whether these lipids are altered by diet, lifestyle, and/or drug therapies.

Dr Sarah Marshall – development of new and better treatments that will allow women with even the worst preeclampsia to continue their pregnancy so that their baby can be born better grown and healthier.

Dr Vanesa Stojanovska – preterm babies exposed to inflammation during pregnancy have a high incidence of breathing difficulties and brain injury, which often lead to Cerebral Palsy. This research aims to investigate whether inflammation injures the fetal brainstem – a life-sustaining brain region which controls our breathing, and whether anti-inflammatory treatments can protect against this injury. Outcomes of this work will guide clinical trials focused on reducing the burden of preterm brain injury.

Dr Nicole Kellow – research into whether a diet low in Advanced Glycation Endproducts (formed when sugars and proteins stick together, resulting in the brown colour, caramel flavour and sticky surface of heated foods) can improve fertility outcomes in obese women who are unable to get pregnant.