The Healthy Mums and Babies (HUMBA) demonstration trial: Early childhood outcome study

Dr Christopher McKinlay & Dr Karaponi Okesene-Gafa
University of Auckland 

What is the problem and who does it affect?

New Zealand has the third highest rate of obesity in children and adults among the OECD countries. If not addressed at an early stage, excessive weight gain in childhood can lead to adult obesity and increased risk of future health problems such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and even premature death.

Pacific and Maori children are overrepresented in the figures, and therefore are at greatest need of an effective intervention. It is understood that excessive nutrients from overweight mothers to their unborn child sets them on a path to being born overweight and for this trend to continue if not effectively thwarted. Maternal Obesity is also an important risk factor for stillbirth and other complications in pregnancy.


What is this project hoping to achieve?

In 2014, Cure Kids funded the Healthy Mums and Babies (HUMBA) Demonstration Trial, which is aiming to improve pregnancy and health outcomes for obese mothers and their infants in the Counties Manukau region, where a large proportion of mothers are obese.

One of the interventions is a culturally appropriate and affordable nutritional intervention, while the other is probiotic capsules (naturally occurring healthy bacteria). A randomised controlled trial – which ensures accuracy and uncompromised data – is being undertaken with the objective of being able to determine if the nutritional intervention and/or probiotic capsules can: 1) reduce high birthweight; and 2) reduce excessive pregnancy weight gain in the mothers.

The project aims to recruit 220 women, and is currently over 80 per cent of the way to completion. This project is to fund the 1-year follow-up of the babies and mothers, assessing the longer-term effects of the interventions. This data is critical in assessing the overall efficacy of the intervention, and if signs are positive, can expedite the process of HUMBA being scaled-up into clinical practice.

Interventions in this high-risk population are urgently needed to halt the intergenerational cycle of obesity, improving both child and maternal health.