Precision Newborn Health

Every day, The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) Butterfly Ward, the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU), cares for some of the country’s sickest and most vulnerable babies.  

These babies, born early or with complicated medical conditions, are often at high risk of having major problems with their health and development throughout their life, with many needing ongoing paediatric care and then adult care. 

Thanks to support from the Good Friday Appeal, the RCH has been able to establish a dedicated research program, known as the Precision Newborn Health Program.  

This innovative research program commenced in 2022 and is working towards improving precision in predicting infants at high risk of health and developmental problems. The program also aims to create personalised intervention programs targeted at those most at risk to improve their outcomes.

Professor Jeanie Cheong, Project Lead for the Precision Newborn Health Project, explained that the project would help build a healthier future for babies cared for on Butterfly. 

“We aim to predict neurodevelopment, feeding and motor problems, and severe lung disease, which are common outcomes across all high-risk infant groups, and carry significant burden to these children and their families.  

“Through better prediction of which infants are at highest risk of long-term poor health and developmental outcomes, we will be able to target support to those who are most at risk, which means more streamlined care and better outcomes,” said Jeanie.  

In the first year of the project, Jeanie and her team made steady progress. A steering committee and working groups were established to oversee and lead the project.  

The team has also begun refining data analysis and modelling programs to better predict health and developmental outcomes for babies born extremely preterm. They have also started the same research for babies who have had surgery. Additionally, they have partnered with parents and health practitioners to design an early intervention program targeted at children from age two. 

Jeanie is grateful for the community’s support through the Good Friday Appeal in making this project possible.  

“On behalf of the babies, children and families, I thank all the supporters of the Good Friday Appeal for their support in the Precision Newborn Health initiative. This will make a substantial contribution to improving their lives.” 

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