Philanthropic legacy supports research to help newborns
18 February 2021
Hugh Green overcame hardship to become a leading New Zealand businessman. Now, his philanthropic legacy is supporting world-leading research aimed to help newborn babies to breathe.
Associate Professor Katie Groom and her team at the University of Auckland’s Liggins Institute believe a simple treatment will safely prevent short-term breathing problems that are more common in babies born by planned or elective caesarean section than in other newborns.
Hugo Charitable Trust donations over the past four years allowed Dr Groom to lay the groundwork for a nationwide research trial funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand.
Hugo Charitable Trust continues the legacy of Green, who grew up in a small town in rural County Donegal, Ireland, enduring hardship in his early life before finding business success in New Zealand. Established in 2017 by Hugh’s daughter Maryanne, Hugo Charitable Trust supports many causes including helping the poor and disadvantaged, and funding medical research such as this.
The research project, called the C*STEROID Trial, is set to involve more than 2,500 pregnant women and their babies around the country. It is the largest trial ever undertaken in this area and will be the first to explore both the benefits and potential side-effects of the treatment.
Mothers-to-be in Auckland and Waikato already have the opportunity to participate in this trial with hospitals in Tauranga, Palmerston North, Northland, Wellington, and Christchurch soon to come on board. It is planned that more than half of the hospitals in the country will work together to answer this everyday clinical question.
“More than one in ten babies are now born by planned caesarean section, so it’s important we know the safest way to care for these mums and their babies,” says Groom.
The project builds on the pioneering work of Sir Graham “Mont” Liggins, the New Zealand obstetrician and scientist who discovered that corticosteroids given to mums before preterm birth reduce short-term breathing problems, as well as saving the lives of our smallest and most vulnerable babies.
The C*STEROID Trial will investigate if the same is true when corticosteroids are given after 35 weeks of pregnancy and before a planned caesarean section when the risk of short-term breathing problems and admission to a newborn intensive care unit is higher than for babies born by vaginal birth. When newborn babies need admission to intensive care, the separation of mother and baby can be stressful and interrupt bonding and breastfeeding during the first days of life.
“It will be wonderful if we can reduce the number of mothers and babies that have to go through that early and stressful separation. The support we have had from Hugo Charitable Trust for such a large project has been fundamental to get to where we are and for the successful roll-out across the country.” said Groom.
Auckland mother Vanessa said taking part in research meant extra support and attention for her newborn son Theo, who is “thriving.” She would be keen to do it again, to help tomorrow’s children.
Besides Hugo Charitable Trust, the C*STEROID Trial has been supported by Cure Kids, Lottery Health Research, the University of Auckland, and the HRC.
Paul Panckhurst | media adviser
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