Health of Indigenous Mothers and Babies

Lead: Associate Professor Kym Rae

Associate Professor Rae is the Director of the Gomeroi gaaynggal Centre where work is focused on the health and wellbeing of Indigenous communities. In particular this Centre has a strategic vision to embed culturally rich and equitable practices to challenge the persistent inequalities of Indigenous women and their children and ensure that their health and wellbeing is indistinguishable from the best global outcomes. To this end, the Centre is working in both a) health research programs as well as using creative strategies of b) ArtsHealth in its wider community work.

Gomeroi gaaynggal (Gomeroi babies) health research programs are undertaking research to understand the origins of both good health and disease in the Indigenous community of its region of NSW Australia. A/Prof Rae and her research team believe if they can understand why some families develop poor health in the future, it may hold the answer to prevention of disease for others. She has developed a prospective longitudinal cohort of women with Indigenous infants, where participation begins during pregnancy. These women and their children continue to work with the Gomeroi gaaynggal Centre until their children reach 10 years of age. Women and children participate in studies that focus on chronic disease development, renal growth, exposure to smoking, nutrition, obesity, and mental health. A/Prof Rae’s expertise in Indigenous health has led to her reputation as an expert in the field and she is now partnered with three First Nations communities of Canada and four Canadian universities (University of Lethbridge, University of Alberta, McMaster University and University of Toronto) in establishing an international cohort of Indigenous women and children.

A/Prof Rae’s team recognises that art changes lives, builds resilience and strengthens communities. Her team bring artists and Indigenous and non-Indigenous community together to share stories, learn from each other, aspire and inspire whilst making art.  This approach has created a unique and innovative method of building health knowledge in Indigenous communities, embedding artistic skills in the community and engaging Indigenous students into a health and research environment. This program has had 22 national exhibitions, including 2 international exhibitions in 2018. Further, this program is increasing its footprint of engagement across the lifecourse, as the team has begun working closely with Indigenous adolescents of the region. In the past 3 years the numbers of participants in the ArtsHealth program has increased to approximately 1500 annually.