Child Population and Translational Health Research

The Child Population and Translational Health Research team aims to conduct population-based research that will improve the health, development and well-being of children. We use routinely collected administrative data (such as birth registrations, hospital admissions, emergency department and NAPLAN data) or clinical data (for example, from the newborn screening program, clinical obstetric or paediatric services, patient surveys or trials) to understand childhood conditions and healthcare to inform and improve paediatric healthcare, guidelines and policies.

Current projects

Early life determinants of child health and development

  • Investigating the role of birth outcomes (gestational age, mode of birth), neonatal health on long-term child health and school performance
  • Epidemiology and outcomes of infants born with congenital anomalies, including genital anomalies (hypospadias, undescended testes), cleft lip/palate, congenital heart defects and oesophageal atresia
  • Evaluation of newborn screening of thyroid hormone levels to detect congenital hypothyroidism, and assess long-term development and school performance of children
  • Impact of paediatric exposure to general anaesthesia and neurocognitive outcomes 
  • Long-term health and school performance of twin births

Child and adolescent health and development

  • Common childhood conditions such as childhood infections, childhood-onset type 1 diabetes, chronic diseases
  • Childhood injuries, including sports injuries, infant falls, traumatic brain injuries, pharmacological poisonings in young children

Evaluating value in paediatric healthcare and healthcare utilisation

  • Paediatric surgery- appendicectomies, orchidopexy
  • Over-diagnosis, health care utilisation and costs of paediatric healthcare
  • Safety and quality of medicines use in kids- reflux medicines in infants
  • Paediatric intensive care unit admissions

Clinical studies in perinatal and paediatric care

  • Randomised trial to evaluate probiotics for the prevention of mastitis in breastfeeding women
  • Patient knowledge and behaviour regarding infection in pregnancy
  • Antenatal education and pregnancy outcomes in women having their first baby
  • Intravenous iron utilisation and treatment for iron deficiency anaemia in pregnancy

The research team

Professor Natasha Nassar, Financial Markets Foundation for Children Chair in Translational Childhood Medicine, Children's Hospital at Westmead Clinical School, University of Sydney

Natasha leads the Child Population and Translational Health Research team and has over 15 years’ experience working in perinatal and paediatric epidemiology, public health and health services research. She has strong content and methodological expertise and is a recognised leader in analyzing and leading research using linked population “BIG” data. This has involved the use of and linkage of administrative birth, congenital anomaly, hospital discharge and deaths data; as well as the linkage and analysis of novel pathology, newborn screening, early development and NAPLAN education data. Her primary goal is to answer leading clinical and policy questions to improve child health, development and well-being.

Dr Samantha Lain, NHMRC Early Career Fellow

Sam is a perinatal epidemiologist and NHMRC Early Career Research Fellow with qualifications in Health Sciences, Epidemiology and Economics. Sam’s research interests include using linked population-based datasets to examine infant health service utilisation, childhood education and developmental outcomes, and economic analyses. Her specific research interests are evaluating long-term outcomes of children diagnosed with congenital hypothyroidism via newborn screening and children diagnosed with congenital heart defects.

Dr Francisco Schneuer, Research Fellow

Francisco is a perinatal epidemiologist with qualifications in Veterinary Sciences, Business administration and Epidemiology. Francisco’s research has focused on using large linked population-based datasets to investigate the association and accuracy of early pregnancy biomarkers predicting adverse pregnancy outcomes; health and developmental outcomes of children with congenital anomalies and those undergoing surgery.

Dr Jane Bell, Research Fellow

Jane has worked in perinatal and paediatric epidemiological research since 2002. She has qualifications in Dentistry, Education, Public Health and Epidemiology and extensive experience in policy, research support and academic units. Jane’s research interests include quality and safety of medicines use in children and health and developmental outcomes of children with congenital anomalies.

Dr Antonia Shand, Maternal Fetal Medicine Subspecialist/Obstetrician

Antonia is a Head, Department of Maternal Fetal Medicine at the Royal Hospital for Women, Randwick, and Visiting Medical Officer at Royal North Shore Hospital. She is also a Research Fellow with the PopHealthKids team and member of the NSW High Risk Pregnancy Perinatal Advice Line. Antonia is involved in policy development to improve coordination of care for pregnant women and her areas of expertise and interest include: medical problems in pregnancy, fetal anomalies, perinatal loss, infections in pregnancy, and guideline development.

Mr Timothy Nielsen, Research Officer

Tim is a perinatal epidemiologist who recently completed an applied epidemiology fellowship in maternal and child health at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Tim has a background in perinatal risk surveillance and mental health/substance use during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Since recently joining the group, he is interested in using population-level data to examine and improve outcomes for children diagnosed with chronic conditions, particularly Type-1 diabetes.     

Ms Diana Bond, Doctoral Candidate

With a background in nursing and childbirth education, Diana’s primary focus is on improving outcomes for pregnancy and childbirth through clinical trials. She is currently enrolled as a PhD candidate at the University of Sydney and has just completed a randomized controlled trial evaluating the effectiveness of probiotics for the prevention of mastitis in breastfeeding women.

Ms Andrea Pattinson, Research Officer, Doctoral Candidate

Andrea is a dietitian with an interest in obesity and eating disorders. She has spent many years working in clinical research both in Australia and in the USA. She is currently completing a PhD at the University of Sydney, Faculty of Medicine and Health.

Key publications

The impact of general anesthesia on child development and school performance: a population-based study. Schneuer FJ, Bentley JP, Davidson AJ, Holland AJA, Badawi N, Martin AJ, Skowno J, Lain SJ, Nassar N. Ped Anest. 2018;28(6):528-536

Association between borderline neonatal thyroid-stimulating hormone concentrations and educational and developmental outcomes: a population-based record linkage study. Lain S, Bentley JP, Wiley V, Roberts C, Jack M, Wilcken B, Nassar N. The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology 2016;4(9):756-765

Acid suppressants for managing gastro-oesophageal reflux and gastro-oesophageal reflux disease in infants: a national survey. Bell JC, Schneuer, Harrison C, Trevena L, Hiscock H, Elshaug A, Nassar N. Arch Dis Child 2018;103(7):660-664.

Gestation at birth, mode of birth, infant feeding and childhood hospitalization with infection. Bentley JP, Burgner DP, Shand AW, Bell JC, Miller JE, Nassar N. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 2018;16.

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection and pregnancy-potential for improvements in Australasian maternity health providers' knowledge. Shand AW, Luk W, Nassar N, Hui L, Dyer K, Rawlinson W. J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med 2018;31(19):2515-2520

Study protocol: evaluation of the probiotic Lactobacillus Fermentum CECT5716 for the prevention of mastitis in breastfeeding women: a randomised controlled trial. Bond DM, Morris JM, Nassar N. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth 2017;17(1):148

Accidental pharmacological poisonings in young children: population-based study in three settings. Bell JC, Bentley JP, Downie C, Cairns R, Buckley NA, Katelaris A, Pearson S, Nassar N. Clinical Toxicology (Phila) 2018;56(8):782-789.

The link between male genital anomalies and adult male reproductive disorders: a population-based data linkage study spanning over 40 years. Schneuer FJ, Milne E, Jamieson SE, Pereira G, Hansen M, Barker A, Holland AJA, Bower C, Nassar N. Lancet Child Adolesc Health 2018;2(10):736-743.

Early discharge of infants and risk of readmission for jaundice. Lain SJ, Roberts CL, Bowen JR, Nassar N. Pediatrics. 2015 Feb;135(2):314-21

Maternal car driving capacity after birth: a pilot prospective study randomizing postnatal women to early verses late driving in a driving simulator. Harpham ME, Nassar N, Leung S, Lainchbury A, Shand AW. J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2018;25:1-8