SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND MEDICARE
MEMBER FOR BALLARAT
CHAIR OF THE SENATE SELECT COMMITTEE ON STILLBIRTH RESEARCH AND EDUCATION
LABOR SENATOR FOR NT
MEMBER OF THE SENATE SELECT COMMITTEE ON STILLBIRTH RESEARCH AND EDUCATION
LABOR SENATOR FOR NSW
LABOR’S COMMITMENT TO DRIVE DOWN AUSTRALIA’S STILLBIRTH RATE
A Shorten Labor Government will invest in driving down Australia’s stillbirth rate, funding prevention and research programs in a bid to save lives and spare families the unimaginable heartache of losing their babies.
Australia loses up to six babies to stillbirth every day. That’s 2200 babies a year, making stillbirth the leading cause of infant death.
Despite this heavy toll, stillbirth has for far too long been overlooked, under-investigated and poorly understood.
While Australia has made progress in reducing sudden infant death, the stillbirth rate has remained stubbornly high for two decades. Stillbirth rates among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are even higher.
It is clear that Australian health policy has failed these babies and their families. We can and we must do better.
Labor senators Malarndirri McCarthy and Kristina Keneally are currently leading a Senate Select Committee inquiry into stillbirth, which is due to report by early 2019.
But Labor believes we must start taking action now.
Labor’s $5 million investment will include $150,000 to develop a National Stillbirth Strategy – the top recommendation of the Stillbirth Foundation of Australia. The strategy will set out priorities, targets and funding needs.
The strategy will be informed by the recommendations of the Senate Select Committee and will involve input from doctors, midwives and nurses, families who have experienced stillbirth and representative groups.
But Labor’s immediate investment will also include:
• $1.85 million for an education campaign to encourage pregnant women to fall asleep on their sides: “We’re on your side. Are you?” Side sleeping reduces the risk of stillbirth by 9 per cent, and could save up to 200 lives a year.
• $1.5 million for research focussed on the 50 to 65 per cent of stillbirths with no known cause. This money would go to the Centre for Research Excellence in Stillbirth at the University of Queensland, whose current funding is due to expire in 2020.
• $1.5 million to create a platform and free app for real-time pregnancy monitoring via wearable technologies. This will capture data for further research and save up to 600 lives a year by monitoring fetal health and maternal sleeping.
Developed in close consultation with the Stillbirth Foundation, Labor’s investment plan is a down-payment to address this important issue. We will consider further measures after the Senate Select Committee reports and the National Stillbirth Strategy is developed.
We call on the Morrison Government to match our commitment.
SUNDAY, 14 OCTOBER 2018