Senator Catryna Bilyk welcomed today’s announcement that a Shorten Labor Government will invest in driving down Australia’s stillbirth rate, funding prevention and research programs in a bid to save babies’ lives.
“While Australia has made progress in reducing sudden infant death, our stillbirth rate has remained stubbornly high for decades,” Senator Bilyk said.
“Australia loses 2,200 babies to stillbirth every year, making stillbirth the leading cause of infant death.”
Senator Bilyk has been a participating member of the Senate Select Committee on Stillbirth Research and Education throughout the course of its inquiry.
Having experienced the heartache of a stillbirth, Senator Bilyk said action on Australia’s high stillbirth rate was well overdue.
“While the Senate Committee hasn’t completed its inquiry, it seems clear so far from the evidence received that stillbirth in Australia has been overlooked and under-investigated for far too long,” Senator Bilyk said.
“Other countries such as the Netherlands and New Zealand have demonstrated that action can be taken to reduce stillbirth rates and save lives.”
Labor’s $5 million investment will include $150,000 to develop a National Stillbirth Strategy. 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.
Labor’s immediate investment will also include:
- $1.85 million for an education campaign to encourage pregnant women to sleep on their sides: “We’re on your side. Are you?” Side sleeping reduces the risk of stillbirth by 9 percent, and could save up to 200 lives a year.
- $1.5 million for research focussed on the 65 percent 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 could save up to 600 lives a year by monitoring foetal 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.
Senator Bilyk thanked her Labor colleagues Senators Kristina Keneally and Malarndirri McCarthy for their work leading the Senate inquiry.
“Although the inquiry is due to report by early 2019, it is right that Labor takes action now,” Senator Bilyk said.
“I call on the Morrison Government to match our commitment.
“Labor will consider further measures after the Senate Select Committee reports and the National Stillbirth Strategy is developed.”
- The definition of stillbirth is the birth of a baby who shows no signs of life after a pregnancy of at least 20 weeks gestation or weighing 400 grams or more. A baby may have died during late pregnancy (intrauterine death) or during labour or birth (intrapartum death).
- PricewaterhouseCoopers has estimated the direct and indirect costs of stillbirth to the Australian economy to be $680 million over five years.
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