Medibank teams up with Monash on new calculator

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Medibank and Monash University have combined to produce a new tool to support Australian women in achieving a healthy pregnancy weight gain.

Women entering pregnancy often have their body mass index (BMI) calculated using height and weight information. This is used by health professionals to advise on how much weight to gain during pregnancy. Yet new research indicates using BMI alone is not a one-size fits all approach.

Professor Helena Teede, from the Monash Centre for Health Research and Implementation at Monash University, said the mother’s BMI entering pregnancy and her ethnicity matters greatly.

“There’s a lot of research available outlining why the current BMI table, based on Caucasian and African-American women, may give incorrect results if used by other nationalities, such as Asian women,” said Professor Teede.

Dr Cheryce Harrison, also from the Monash Centre for Health Research and Implementation, said the one-size fits all approach of standard online BMI calculators is especially concerning for Australia’s ethnically diverse population.

“Our research shows that Asian women, especially, have a proportionally higher risk of complications, such as gestational diabetes from excessive weight gain during pregnancy. However, this often wouldn’t be picked up with online calculators that are currently available.”

Medibank and Monash University have produced this country's first ethnically diverse ‘Healthy Weight Gain During Pregnancy Calculator’.

It is located on Medibank’s new Live Better Families hub.

Dr Catherine Keating, Medibank’s head of health economics and outcomes, said pregnant women are encouraged to use the calculator regularly to check whether their weight gain is within the recommended ranges, which will help optimise the health of mother and baby. The calculator will also include suggestions for healthy eating and safe exercises during pregnancy.

“Many pregnancy weight tracking tools are from the US and UK and aren’t user friendly," said Dr Keating.

"They’re in inches and pounds and don’t address ethnicity or provide healthy lifestyle advice specific to the needs of pregnant women. For the first time, we’re asking mums-to-be to select their ethnicity, so we can provide a more accurate and personalised result. They can also continue using it at any point during their pregnancy.

“As a mother of two young daughters, I remember receiving advice such as being encouraged to ‘eat for two’. The problem is these suggestions may increase the risk of pregnancy complications.”

The new ‘Live Better Families’ hub includes other tools such as an ovulation tracker, due date calculator, ‘what to expect’ information, as well as over 100 helpful articles on nutrition, exercise, planning a family, as well as tips for new parents.

Dr Keating said the new hub aims to support all growing families achieve better health.

“On the hub pregnant women can sign up for a new weekly email program, delivering relevant information about their pregnancy journey. This is open to all women, not just Medibank customers,” she said.