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Delivering solutions to diabetes

On World Diabetes Day, we explore how large, whole-of-population research studies could have a meaningful impact on long-term outcomes for women who have had gestational diabetes. 

Gestational diabetes is increasingly common in pregnant women and the fastest-growing type of diabetes in Australia. According to Diabetes Australia, the number of women diagnosed with gestational diabetes annually has more than doubled over the past decade. 

Over the next decade, more than 500,000 Australian women are expected to develop gestational diabetes over the course of their pregnancy, said Associate Professor Vincent Versace, Director of Deakin Rural Health. 

“Many factors contribute to the growing rate of gestational diabetes in pregnant women, including age, weight, and ethnicity. In addition, the recent adoption of the International Association of Diabetes in Pregnancy Study Group (IADPSG) diagnostic criteria has seen further increases in rates of gestational diabetes in Australia.  

“As a result, we better need to understand the risk associated with gestational diabetes. This ranges from those most likely to be diagnosed, and associated adverse pregnancy outcomes, through to those who are likely to develop type-2 diabetes in the future,” he said. 

A/Prof Versace said that the Mothers and Gestational Diabetes in Australia (MaGDA-2) project, a partnership led by Deakin University that includes Monash University, The University of Melbourne, South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) and Western Health researchers, as well as the Victorian Department of Health, SA Health, Monash Health, and Diabetes Australia, has parallels with the GenV research project. 

“One of the key aims of the MaGDA-2 project is to use existing clinical data from pregnant women in Victoria and South Australia over a 15-year period to understand how mothers at risk of developing type 2 diabetes (after gestational diabetes) can be identified.  

“We hope that by creating a large longitudinal cohort via this study, a linked, de-identified data set can be available to future researchers who will be asking questions we haven’t thought of yet. This whole-of-population approach to research will leave a positive legacy for future generations,” he said. 

GenV Scientific Director Professor Melissa Wake said that GenV also aims to build a communal resource with, and for, researchers, health professionals, policy makers, and service providers. 

“Obesity and diabetes is one of the six key focus areas for GenV. These key areas have been identified for their impact, cost and slow progress, with inequity and vulnerability as overarching themes.

“The power of GenV is its large scale. To the many elements it has in common with MaGDA-2, it adds biologic predictors and long-term health and wellbeing outcomes for mothers and children. By including everybody in a cohort who consents in large longitudinal research projects, we can better predict, prevent and treat common conditions (such as gestational diabetes) and their consequences over the life course,” she said.