Using health promotion to reduce the burden of obesity before and in pregnancy

Project title: Generating and translating knowledge in health promotion and lifestyle improvement prior to and during pregnancy to reduce the burden of maternal obesity

Start date: March 2018

Estimated end date: August 2020

What is the issue?

Two-thirds of Australian adults are overweight or obese. Women in their reproductive years are leading this trend, gaining more weight yearly than older women and progressing more rapidly to obesity than men. Over half of women in Australia and other developed countries enter pregnancy overweight or obese. A higher body mass index (BMI) prior to pregnancy increases the risk of complications during pregnancy including gestational diabetes mellitus, pre-eclampsia, caesarean section, and large-for-gestational-age (LGA) infants.

There is a clear imperative to reduce obesity, yet treating established obesity is intensive, costly, largely ineffective and unsustainable at a population level. This leading team has developed effective lifestyle interventions for reproductive aged women and pregnancy, however, to date, no country has implemented such interventions and scaled them as a systems level- and policy-level evidence-based strategies targeting women pre-conception and pregnancy to prevent obesity.

How is the project addressing the issue?

The aim of this project is to create, capture and deliver health promotion, lifestyle improvement and obesity prevention strategically targeting women during pre-conception and pregnancy, to improve the health of women and the next generation.

Taking a systems implementation approach, the project team will engage with stakeholders, generate and translate new knowledge in implementation of effective interventions and strategies at scale.

Relevance of the project for policy and practice

The delivery of effective interventions and tool kits will support women through pre-conception and pregnancy to live active and healthy lives.

This is the first project, nationally or internationally, to take such a systems approach in the maternal obesity space, and it will have flow on effects on childhood obesity. If we tackle obesity prevention from before conception, through pregnancy and into the postpartum, we will build effective and population level support for women and help prevent childhood obesity.

What are the expected outcomes?

The project will implement low cost, translatable and scalable solutions to reduce the burden of maternal and childhood obesity including:

  • Designing an innovative and engaging pre-conception health promotion program targeting reproductive aged women
  • Developing evidence-based resources and an implementation strategy ready for translation and scale of pre-conception health promotion programs
  • Mapping current practice, scope implementation enablers and barriers in pregnancy
  • Co-designing implementation strategies and resources for integration of lifestyle interventions into routine antenatal care
  • Identifying gaps in the training of medical doctors and nurses/midwives to support lifestyle modification pre-conception and in pregnancy
  • Co-designing an accessible, low-cost, capacity building intervention to up-skill health professionals to support lifestyle modification and deliver pre-conception and antenatal lifestyle interventions effectively.




Project lead

Professor Helena Teede, Monash University

Project team

Professor Helen Skouteris, Monash University

Associate Professor Jacqueline Boyle, Monash University

Tracy Taylor (Project Manager), Monash University

Funding for this research has been provided from the Australian Government’s Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF). The MRFF provides funding to support health and medical research and innovation, with the objective of improving the health and wellbeing of Australians. MRFF funding has been provided to The Australian Prevention Partnership Centre under the MRFF Boosting Preventive Health Research Program. Further information on the MRFF is available at



Warwick University UK, oral presentation by Professor Helen Skouteris: Health in preconception and pregnancy: An implementation science approach to reducing the burden of maternal obesity. UK, April 2018.