Every Week Counts Campaign Goes National
A public health intervention kick-started by Sydney Health Partners, and aimed at women and their care providers considering a planned birth, has been enthusiastically adopted in NSW and elsewhere
The Every Week Counts project encourages planned births to happen as close to 40 weeks as possible, when medically safe to do so. The project developed a brochure designed for consumers - and a more detailed version for clinicians – which were initially trialled in clinical settings at Royal North Shore and Westmead hospitals. Following good initial acceptance by expectant mothers, obstetricians and midwives, distribution of the brochures was extended to all major hospitals in NSW.
The information was also adopted by a group of three hospitals in Brisbane, and adopted into guidelines within South Australia and Western Australia. Wide promotion of the ‘Every Week Counts’ campaign’s key messages was aided by the creation of a website [www.everyweekcounts.com.au] which attracted significant traffic in its first year.
In 2019, ‘Every Week Counts’ was included in the Australian Safer Baby Bundle, a national campaign of evidence-based interventions designed to reduce Australia’s incidence of stillbirth. Additionally, ‘Every Week Counts’ was also promoted as part of the Australian Preterm Birth Prevention Alliance, aiming to reduce preterm birth and early term birth across Australia.
Project Co-ordinator and Registered Nurse Lyndsey Harvey said while midwives were early and enthusiastic supporters of the Every Week Counts project, many obstetricians have also become supportive over time.
“I think wherever we’ve distributed the brochures, the message has really become part of their daily practice. It’s a gradual thing, but anecdotally clinicians tell us it’s had an impact and I think they’ve become more thoughtful about the message”
Following the Sydney Health Partners grant, the research project attracted subsequent funding from the New South Wales Government’s Translational Research Grants Scheme (TRGS).
The second stage of the project collected data and analysed whether the campaign’s brochures, website and supporting professional education made a measurable difference to the number of planned births being performed before full term and postnatal infant health outcomes. Results are expected in the second half of 2020.
Chief investigator Professor Jonathan Morris, of Northern Sydney Local Health District, said Every Week Counts built on evidence that children born before 39 weeks were at increased risk of long-term developmental problems such as poorer school performance and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Even in the short-term, babies born early were more likely to need help with their breathing, be admitted to a neonatal intensive care unit, have jaundice, and spend longer in hospital.
“Those last few weeks of gestation might seem insignificant, but in reality babies are going through crucial developmental phases,” said Professor Morris. “The brain at 35 weeks, for example, only weighs two-thirds of what it will weigh at 40 weeks.”
“We found there was a general lack of awareness amongst both clinicians and expectant parents of the short, medium and long-term implications of being born even slightly early. But we believe that through this project, awareness and attitudes are starting to change.”
Are we there yet? Optimising timing of planned birth to improve newborn outcomes and reduce health service costs
Professor Jonathan Morris
Northern Sydney Local Health District
Professor Jonathan Morris
Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology - University of SydneyVisit profile of Professor Jonathan Morris
Director Clinical and Population Perinatal Health Research - Kolling Institute of Medical Research, Northern Clinical School