Launceston babies sought for University of Tasmania Babybod study

FUTURE HEALTH: University of Tasmania post-doctoral researcher Steven Street is one of the researchers involved in the Babybod study being conducted at the Launceston General Hospital. Picture: Phillip Biggs
FUTURE HEALTH: University of Tasmania post-doctoral researcher Steven Street is one of the researchers involved in the Babybod study being conducted at the Launceston General Hospital. Picture: Phillip Biggs

Launceston babies will help set new standards for baby development when a new study gets underway at the Launceston General Hospital.

The six-month Babybod study is being conducted by the University of Tasmania that fits into a two-year program conducted by international universities in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Kenya, Brazil and South Africa.

Launceston is the only site in Australia participating in the six-month study, which is actively seeking mothers and babies to participate.

Post-doctoral researcher Steven Street has moved from the mainland to Tasmania to help conduct the study and has been speaking to prospective mothers about the trial.

“At the moment we only measure [infants] by weight, length, those kinds of things but this study will show us new ways of measuring body composition,” he said.

The study will mean babies will be placed into a body composition machine, located at the Launceston General Hospital, and have their fat mass analysed periodically over six months.

Dr Street said the machine works by using displaced air to measure fat composition.

“The machine measures the amount of displaced air that occurs in the chamber before and after the baby is placed in the chamber,” he said.

To participate, the baby has to be placed in secure and closed chamber that is heated at 31 degrees. The test inside the chamber takes two minutes.

The entire testing procedure for the study will only take seven minutes but mums and bubs will have to come back periodically over the six months. The body composition machine, colloquially known as the Pea-Pod, is one of two in Tasmania, both located at the LGH.

The hospital has one pea-pod, for children and one machine for adults.

Dr Street said it was a real coup for Launceston to be involved in the study because it would help researchers and doctors set new standards for babies into the future.

“Non-communicable diseases, like diabetes and heart disease are on the rise and this is intimately related to body composition,” he said.

“If we can chart growth in infants and get an idea of what the ideal growth pattern is we can compare children to that standard and help to prevent instances of these diseases.”

Dr Street said he had a lot of mothers inquire about participating in the study but wanted to allay some of the concerns people had raised.

He said the machine does not irradiate and there is plenty of air in the chamber.

There will also be incentives for those who participate. Anyone who wants more information or who wishes to participate in the study should contact baby.bod@utas.edu.au