Better nutrition to support new Pacific mums

Dr Karaponi Okesene-Gafa received an award for best thesis at the 2023 Celebrating Research Excellence Awards.

Karaponi Okesene-Gafa with the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research Professor Frank Bloomfield
Karaponi Okesene-Gafa with the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research, Professor Frank Bloomfield.

Healthy mums and babies

Obesity and excessive weight gain in pregnancy increases the risks of complications during pregnancy and affects the long-term health of mothers and babies. High BMI (body mass index) or obesity affects a high proportion of multi-ethnic populations in South Auckland.

For her thesis, Karaponi Okesene-Gafa carried out the Healthy Mums and Babies randomised trial in mothers with high BMI. She and colleagues tested the impact of a dietary education intervention provided by community health workers and compared it with routine dietary advice care.

The education and intervention reduced the average pregnancy weight gain by approximately 2kg. The study proved it was feasible to carry out research in these populations and women were happy to participate.

She plans to continue research to explore beliefs, practices and study interventions that may improve outcomes in multi-ethnic populations with high BMI, in Aotearoa, New Zealand.

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