New research in western Sydney to study parental stress during COVID-19

Child and Family Health nurse Jennifer Mulligan and Blacktown Hospital pharmacist Dr Ronald Castelino are among the researchers to receive grants.

A study into COVID-related stress on western Sydney mums is among eight projects sharing in $350,000 of funding announced by the Western Sydney Local Health District Research and Education Network (REN) for 2021-22.

Topics ranging from fatty liver disease to smoking cessation and kidney transplantation will go under the microscope in the Westmead Health Precinct thanks to the REN funding over two years.

New investigator Jennifer Mulligan, a clinical nurse consultant with Integrated and Community Health, said her project will examine any additional impact of COVID-19 in addition to the “usual” challenges for culturally and linguistically diverse mothers with multiple children.

Westmead-based REN grant recipients (from left) senior clinical dietitian Caron Blumenthal, Clinical Pharmacy chair Professor Johannes Alffenaar, endocrinologist Dr Thora Chai and transplant surgeon Professor Henry Pleass.

“The pandemic has been challenging for everyone, but mothers especially have suffered due to the social isolation and lack of family support,” Jennifer explained.

“For many this is an entirely new experience of motherhood without the support of their own mother or mother-in-law, which could lead to increased stress and anxiety.

We know a mother’s emotional availability is so important to forming a health parent-infant attachment during the critical first 2000 days of a child’s life.

“I’m surprised, thrilled and grateful to be given the opportunity to explore this area, and work with some very experienced Child and Family Health colleagues to hopefully provide evidence to increase our support for isolated mothers.”

WSLHD research director Professor Mark McLean said he was delighted that REN could support three new investigators, three early-mid career investigators and two established investigators with the latest grants.

“It’s wonderful to see more staff from a variety of disciplines across our district getting involved in research, and an honour to support them on their journey.

“We all share the goal of maintaining and improving health in western Sydney and beyond, and it’s only through research that we can improve our understanding and so continue to improve our care,” Prof McLean said.

Blacktown Hospital gastroenterologist and hepatologist Professor Golo Ahlenstiel

The eight funded projects are as follows:

New investigator category

  • Dr Thora Chai. Diabetes & Endocrinology, Westmead Hospital. The Role of Metabolic Dysfunction-Associated Fatty Liver Disease in the Development of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus.
  • Ms Jennifer Mulligan. Child and Family Health, ICH. Has COVID-19 caused additional stress in early parenting for multiparous CALD mothers: an explorative study using a mixed methods approach?
  • Dr Katherine Phillips. Anaesthesia and Perioperative Medicine, Westmead Hospital. TextPop: The use of text messaging support to aid smoking cessation in the perioperative period for patients presenting for elective surgery – a single site, randomised control trial.

Early-Mid Career Investigator Category

  • Dr Caron Blumenthal. Women’s and Newborn Health, Westmead Hospital. Randomised controlled trial assessment of a recently-established collaborative midwifery and allied health (dietetics/physiotherapy) continuity model of pregnancy care to reduce excessive gestational weight gain (GWG) and thereby reduce infant obesity.
  • Dr Ronald Castelino. Pharmacy Department, Blacktown Hospital. Pharmacokinetic (PK) studies of antibiotics for the treatment of peritonitis in patients on automated peritoneal dialysis and continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis.
  • Professor Henry Pleass. Surgery, Westmead Hospital. Normothermic machine perfusion to rejuvenate marginal donor kidneys prior to transplantation.

Establish Investigator category

  • Professor Jan-Willem Alffenaar. Pharmacy Department, Westmead Hospital. A pharmacist-led collaborative service in personalised dosing of antimicrobials to improve treatment outcome and reduce health care costs.
  • Professor Golo Ahlenstiel. Blacktown Clinical School and Research Centre, Blacktown Hospital. Risk factors of immune-checkpoint inhibitors mediated liver, gastrointestinal, endocrine and skin toxicity (ICEMELT).

The Westmead Health Precinct is one of the largest health, education, research and training precincts in Australia, including four major hospitals, four world-leading medical research institutes, two university campuses and the largest research intensive pathology service in NSW.