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1.  Validity and Reliability of Stillbirth Data Using Linked Self-Reported and Administrative Datasets 
Journal of Epidemiology  2015;25(1):30-37.
Background
A high rate of stillbirth was previously observed in the Australian Longitudinal Study of Women’s Health (ALSWH). Our primary objective was to test the validity and reliability of self-reported stillbirth data linked to state-based administrative datasets.
Methods
Self-reported data, collected as part of the ALSWH cohort born in 1973–1978, were linked to three administrative datasets for women in New South Wales, Australia (n = 4374): the Midwives Data Collection; Admitted Patient Data Collection; and Perinatal Death Review Database. Linkages were obtained from the Centre for Health Record Linkage for the period 1996–2009. True cases of stillbirth were defined by being consistently recorded in two or more independent data sources. Sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value, negative predictive value, percent agreement, and kappa statistics were calculated for each dataset.
Results
Forty-nine women reported 53 stillbirths. No dataset was 100% accurate. The administrative datasets performed better than self-reported data, with high accuracy and agreement. Self-reported data showed high sensitivity (100%) but low specificity (30%), meaning women who had a stillbirth always reported it, but there was also over-reporting of stillbirths. About half of the misreported cases in the ALSWH were able to be removed by identifying inconsistencies in longitudinal data.
Conclusions
Data linkage provides great opportunity to assess the validity and reliability of self-reported study data. Conversely, self-reported study data can help to resolve inconsistencies in administrative datasets. Quantifying the strengths and limitations of both self-reported and administrative data can improve epidemiological research, especially by guiding methods and interpretation of findings.
doi:10.2188/jea.JE20140032
PMCID: PMC4275435
data; kappa; linkage; reliability; self-report; sensitivity; specificity; stillbirth; validity
2.  Biochemical Validation of the Older Australian’s Food Frequency Questionnaire Using Carotenoids and Vitamin E 
Nutrients  2014;6(11):4906-4917.
Background: Validation of a food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) is important, as inaccurate and imprecise information may affect the association between dietary exposure and health outcomes. Objective: This study assessed the validity of the Older Australian’s FFQ against plasma carotenoids and Vitamin E. Methods: A random subsample (n = 150) of 2420 participants in the Hunter Community Study, aged 55–85 years, were included. Correlations between crude and energy-adjusted FFQ estimates of carotenoids, Vitamin E, and fruit and vegetables with corresponding biomarkers were determined. Percentages of participants correctly classified in the same quartile, and in the same ± 1 quartile, by the two methods were calculated. Results: Significant correlations (P < 0.05) were observed for α-carotene (r = 0.26–0.28), β-carotene (r = 0.21–0.25), and β-cryptoxanthin (r = 0.21–0.23). Intakes of fruits and vegetables also showed similar correlations with these plasma carotenoids. Lycopene was only significantly correlated with fruit and vegetable intakes (r = 0.19–0.23). Weak correlations were observed for lutein + zeaxanthin (r = 0.12–0.16). For Vitamin E, significant correlation was observed for energy-adjusted FFQ estimate and biomarker (r = 0.20). More than 68% of individuals were correctly classified within the same or adjacent quartile, except for lutein + zeaxanthin. Conclusion: With the exception of lutein + zeaxanthin, the Older Australian’s FFQ provides reasonable rankings for individuals according to their carotenoids, Vitamin E, fruit and vegetable intakes.
doi:10.3390/nu6114906
PMCID: PMC4245571  PMID: 25383938
validation; food frequency questionnaire; biomarkers; carotenoids; vitamin E
3.  Women’s perceptions of information about alcohol use during pregnancy: a qualitative study 
BMC Public Health  2014;14(1):1048.
Background
A number of alcohol guidelines worldwide suggest that pregnant women should abstain from alcohol. However, high prevalence rates of alcohol consumption during pregnancy still exist. It is unknown whether there are problems with the dissemination of guideline information that is potentially contributing to such consumption. This qualitative study aimed to explore women’s perceptions of information they received about alcohol use during pregnancy after the introduction of abstinence guidelines.
Methods
Nineteen women from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health (ALSWH) 1973–78 cohort that reported a pregnancy in 2009 were recruited for semi-structured telephone interviews. The interviews were conducted until data saturation was reached. Interviews were transcribed, then thematically analysed. ALSWH survey data was used to augment the findings. The main outcome measure was women’s perceptions of information received about alcohol use during pregnancy after the introduction of the 2009 Australian guidelines promoting abstinence during pregnancy.
Results
Women reported a number of problems with the information about alcohol use during pregnancy and with its dissemination. There were inconsistencies in the information about alcohol use during pregnancy and in the advice provided. Mixed messages and confusion about identifying a safe level of consumption had implications on women’s decisions to drink or abstain during pregnancy. Women expressed a need for a clear, consistent message to be provided to women as early as possible. They preferred that the message come from healthcare professionals or another reputable source.
Conclusions
To make an informed decision about alcohol use during pregnancy, women must first be provided with the latest evidence-based information. As this study found a number of limitations with information provision, it is suggested that a systematic approach be adopted by healthcare professionals, in line with best-practice guidelines, to ensure all women are made aware of the alcohol recommendations for pregnancy.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-1048
PMCID: PMC4195901  PMID: 25297463
Alcohol drinking; Pregnancy; Information dissemination; Qualitative research
4.  Protocol for the Women And Their Children’s Health (WATCH) Study: A Cohort of Pregnancy and Beyond 
Journal of Epidemiology  2012;22(3):267-275.
Background
The developmental origins of health and disease is a conceptual framework that helps explain the links between our early life exposures and later health outcomes, and is a burgeoning field of research. In this report, we describe the study protocol used in a prospective cohort of women recruited during pregnancy, with postnatal follow-up of the mothers and offspring.
Methods
The Women And Their Children’s Health (WATCH) cohort (n = 180 women) is being conducted at the John Hunter Hospital, Australia (from June 2006). Women attended study visits during pregnancy at 19, 24, 30, and 36 weeks’ gestation. Postnatal follow-up of the women and their offspring occurred at 3-month intervals during the first year after birth and annually thereafter, until age 4 years. Fetal ultrasound scans were performed at each pregnancy visit. Pregnancy and birth data were obtained from hospital records. Data collection has included maternal and child anthropometric, biochemical, dietary, physical activity, socioeconomic, medical, and other variables.
Conclusions
The 2 most novel components of our prospective cohort study are (1) the regular and systematic tracking of fetal and child growth and body composition, starting in the second trimester of pregnancy and continuing to age 4 years, and (2) the detailed maternal and child dietary data collection, including biochemical parameters. Detailed cohorts that collect data on the early nutritional, physiological, and social determinants of health are valuable. Despite its relatively small sample size, many hypotheses on developmental origins can be tested or piloted using data collected from the WATCH cohort.
doi:10.2188/jea.JE20110079
PMCID: PMC3798629  PMID: 22374367
child; diet; growth; pregnancy; weight
5.  Risky Drinking Patterns Are Being Continued into Pregnancy: A Prospective Cohort Study 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e86171.
Background
Risky patterns of alcohol use prior to pregnancy increase the risk of alcohol-exposed pregnancies and subsequent adverse outcomes. It is important to understand how consumption changes once women become pregnant.
Objective
The aim of this study was to describe the characteristics of women that partake in risky drinking patterns before pregnancy and to examine how these patterns change once they become pregnant.
Methods
A sample of 1577 women from the 1973–78 cohort of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health were included if they first reported being pregnant in 2000, 2003, 2006, 2009 and reported risky drinking patterns prior to that pregnancy. Multinomial logistic regression was used to determine which risky drinking patterns were most likely to continue into pregnancy.
Results
When reporting risky drinking patterns prior to pregnancy only 6% of women reported weekly drinking only, whereas 46% reported binge drinking only and 48% reported both. Women in both binge categories were more likely to have experienced financial stress, not been partnered, smoked, used drugs, been nulliparous, experienced a violent relationship, and were less educated. Most women (46%) continued these risky drinking patterns into pregnancy, with 40% reducing these behaviors, and 14% completely ceasing alcohol consumption. Once pregnant, women who binged only prior to pregnancy were more likely to continue (55%) rather than reduce drinking (29%). Of the combined drinking group 61% continued to binge and 47% continued weekly drinking. Compared with the combined drinking group, binge only drinkers prior to pregnancy were less likely to reduce rather than continue their drinking once pregnant (OR = 0.37, 95% CI  =  0.29, 0.47).
Conclusions
Over a third of women continued risky drinking into pregnancy, especially binge drinking, suggesting a need to address alcohol consumption prior to pregnancy.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0086171
PMCID: PMC3893287  PMID: 24454959
6.  Poor Adherence to National and International Breastfeeding Duration Targets in an Australian Longitudinal Cohort 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e54409.
Objectives
To report on the proportion and characteristics of Australian infants who are fed, and mothers who feed, in accordance with the national and international breastfeeding duration targets of six, 12 and 24 months. Furthermore, to examine the longitudinal breastfeeding duration patterns for women with more than one child.
Methods
Breastfeeding duration data for 9773 children have been self-reported by a national sample of 5091 mothers aged 30–36 years in 2009, participating in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health.
Results
Only 60% of infants received the minimum recommended 6 months of breast milk, irrespective of breastfeeding exclusivity. Less than 30% of infants received any breast milk at 12 months, and less than 3% were breastfed to the international target of 24 months. Young, less educated, unmarried or low-income women were at an increased risk of premature breastfeeding cessation. For women with three or more children, nearly 75% of women who breastfed their first child for at least six months reached this breastfeeding duration target for their next two children.
Conclusion
While national breastfeeding rates are typically evaluated in relation to the infant, a novel component of our study is that we have assessed maternal adherence to breastfeeding duration targets and the longitudinal feeding practices of women with more than one child. Separate evaluations of maternal and infant breastfeeding rates are important as they differ in their implications for public health policy and practice.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0054409
PMCID: PMC3559550  PMID: 23382897
7.  Determinants of pregnant women's compliance with alcohol guidelines: a prospective cohort study 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:777.
Background
In 2009, Australian alcohol guidelines for pregnancy changed from low to no alcohol intake. Previous research found a high proportion of pregnant Australian women drank during pregnancy; however, there has been limited investigation of whether pregnant women comply with 2009 alcohol guidelines. The purpose of this study was to provide an assessment of pregnant women’s compliance with 2009 Australian alcohol guidelines and identify predictors of such compliance, including previous drinking behaviour.
Methods
Cross-sectional analysis of prospective data from the 1973–1978 cohort of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health was conducted. Women aged 30–36 years who were pregnant at the 2009 survey and had data on alcohol use were included (n = 837). Compliance with 2009 alcohol guidelines for pregnancy was defined as no alcohol intake. Predictors of compliance were analysed using multivariate logistic regression, controlling for area of residence, in three separate models to account for multicollinearity between measures of previous alcohol intake (compliance with 2001 guidelines; frequency and quantity; bingeing). Private health insurance, household income, and illicit drug use were entered into all models and retained if significant.
Results
72% of pregnant women did not comply with the 2009 alcohol guidelines and 82% of these women drank less than seven drinks per week, with no more than one or two drinks per drinking day. The odds of complying with abstinence increased by a factor of 3.48 (95% CI 2.39-5.05) for women who previously complied with the 2001 alcohol guidelines and decreased by a factor of 0.19 (95% CI 0.08-0.66) if household incomes were $36,400 or more. In other models the odds of complying were lower for women who consumed alcohol before pregnancy at least weekly (OR = 0.40, 95% CI 0.25-0.63) or binged (OR ≥ 0.18, 95% CI 0.10-0.31) and were higher for those who abstained (OR = 45.09; 95% CI 8.63-235.49) prior to pregnancy.
Conclusion
Most pregnant women did not comply with alcohol guidelines promoting abstinence. Prior alcohol behaviour was the strongest predictor of compliance during pregnancy, suggesting alcohol use should be addressed in women of child-bearing age. The study is limited by the relatively short timeframe between the official introduction of the 2009 guidelines and the date the surveys were sent out. Widespread dissemination of the guidelines may be necessary to help increase guideline compliance by pregnant women.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-777
PMCID: PMC3511880  PMID: 22971176
Alcohol drinking; Guidelines; Health behaviour; Patient compliance; Pregnancy; Prenatal care; Prevalence; Women's health
8.  Miscarriage, Preterm Delivery, and Stillbirth: Large Variations in Rates within a Cohort of Australian Women 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e37109.
Objectives
We aimed to use simple clinical questions to group women and provide their specific rates of miscarriage, preterm delivery, and stillbirth for reference. Further, our purpose was to describe who has experienced particularly low or high rates of each event.
Methods
Data were collected as part of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health, a national prospective cohort. Reproductive histories were obtained from 5806 women aged 31–36 years in 2009, who had self-reported an outcome for one or more pregnancy. Age at first birth, number of live births, smoking status, fertility problems, use of in vitro fertilisation (IVF), education and physical activity were the variables that best separated women into groups for calculating the rates of miscarriage, preterm delivery, and stillbirth.
Results
Women reported 10,247 live births, 2544 miscarriages, 1113 preterm deliveries, and 113 stillbirths. Miscarriage was correlated with stillbirth (r = 0.09, P<0.001). The calculable rate of miscarriage ranged from 11.3 to 86.5 miscarriages per 100 live births. Women who had high rates of miscarriage typically had fewer live births, were more likely to smoke and were more likely to have tried unsuccessfully to conceive for ≥12 months. The highest proportion of live preterm delivery (32.2%) occurred in women who had one live birth, had tried unsuccessfully to conceive for ≥12 months, had used IVF, and had 12 years education or equivalent. Women aged 14–19.99 years at their first birth and reported low physical activity had 38.9 stillbirths per 1000 live births, compared to the lowest rate at 5.5 per 1000 live births.
Conclusion
Different groups of women experience vastly different rates of each adverse pregnancy event. We have used simple questions and established reference data that will stratify women into low- and high-rate groups, which may be useful in counselling those who have experienced miscarriage, preterm delivery, or stillbirth, plus women with fertility intent.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0037109
PMCID: PMC3357437  PMID: 22629355
9.  Disparities exist between National food group recommendations and the dietary intakes of women 
BMC Women's Health  2011;11:37.
Background
Preconception and pregnancy dietary intakes can influence the health of future generations. In this study we compared the food intakes of reproductive-aged women by pregnancy status, to current Australian recommendations.
Methods
Data are from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health, younger cohort aged 25-30 years in 2003, with self-reported status as pregnant (n = 606), trying to conceive (n = 454), given birth in the last 12 months (n = 829) or other (n = 5597). Diet was assessed using a validated 74-item food frequency questionnaire. Food group servings and nutrient intakes were compared to the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating (AGHE) and Australian Nutrient Reference Values (NRVs).
Results
No women met all AGHE food group recommendations. Highest adherence rates [mean (95% CI) servings/day] were for meat [85%, 1.9(1.8-1.9)], fruit [44%, 2.1(2.1-2.2)] and dairy [35%, 1.8(1.8-1.9)], with < 14% meeting remaining recommendations. Women who achieved NRVs (folate, iron, calcium, zinc, fibre) for pregnancy, breastfeeding and adult life stages were 1.5%, 3.3% and 13.7%, respectively. Compared to AGHE, women consumed more servings of fruit (4.9 vs 4.0;P = 0.034) and dairy (3.4 vs 2.0;P = 0.006) to achieve pregnancy NRVs; more dairy (2.9 vs 2.0;P = 0.001), less fruit (3.9 vs 5.0;P < .001) and vegetables (3.4 vs 7.0;P < .001) to achieve breastfeeding NRVs; more fruit (3.6 vs 3.0;P < .001), dairy (2.5 vs 2.0;P < .001), meat (1.8 vs 1.5;P = 0.015), less vegetables (3.6 vs 5.0;P < .001) to achieve adult NRVs.
Conclusions
The AGHE does not align with contemporary diets of Australian women or enable them to meet all NRVs. Current tools to guide food consumption by women during pregnancy require revision.
doi:10.1186/1472-6874-11-37
PMCID: PMC3170266  PMID: 21819627
10.  A recruiting failure turned success 
Background
This paper describes an attempt that was made to recruit child-bearing women into a nutrition-based research study and the knowledge that was gained when this approach was unsuccessful. The Assessment Before Children Develop Obesity Study was a cross-sectional survey which planned to follow-up women and children who had previously been, or were currently enrolled in the Mathematical Model of Pregnancy Study.
Methods
Ethics approval was sought and obtained over an eight month period. After just six weeks it was obvious that our research objectives were not achievable because of an inadequate response rate (10%). This led to a review of the recruiting methodology as well as all written materials provided to potential participants. Advice was sought from those with expertise in the design of large public health campaigns and literature was consulted to refine our recruitment strategy.
Results
In subsequent redevelopment, the Assessment Before Children Develop Obesity Study was merged with the Mathematical Model of Pregnancy Study to become what is now known as the Women and Their Children's Health Study. Consent rates improved from 10% and 35% in the Assessment Before Children Develop Obesity and Mathematical Model of Pregnancy studies respectively, to 61% in the Women and Their Children's Health Study (chi square test, p < 0.001). Successful recruitment for this research continues. The significant improvement in the participation rate is attributed to numerous factors including changes to the study name, recruiting method and information materials.
Conclusion
By sharing our experience we aim to assist other researcher in avoiding the same pitfalls and offer effective strategies for improving response rates.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-8-64
PMCID: PMC2292709  PMID: 18366805

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