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Waikato Hospital leads with world-breaking baby research

Sugar baby logoNewborn baby research undertaken at Waikato Hospital between 2008 and 2010, known as the Sugar Babies Study, features in one of the world’s best known, oldest and most respected general medical journals today.

The research, undertaken locally by Deborah Harris from Waikato District Health Board (DHB) will be published in The Lancet this week.

Neonatal paediatrician and Auckland University’s Waikato Clinical School of Medicine clinical senior lecturer Dr Phil Weston, was the other Waikato Hospital researcher. Distinguished Professor Jane Harding provided the overall leadership from the University of Auckland’s Liggins Institute.

The research investigated treatment for babies who have low blood glucose concentration (hypoglycaemia), a condition that is a risk factor for brain injury.

The research findings showed that the simple use of dextrose gel rubbed into the inside of the baby’s mouth, meant that the babies were more likely to remain with their mothers rather than being admitted to the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for treatment. It also meant that they were more likely to be successfully breast fed after discharge.

Chief operating officer Jan Adams reported this substantial achievement to the Waikato DHB board today, reflecting on Dr Harris’s enormous contribution to nursing in New Zealand.

She was the first nurse practitioner appointment by the Nursing Council in 2001. The Sugar Babies Study was a major part of her PhD, conferred earlier this year.

“We expect the information to have wide international uptake and to be easily and cheaply adopted in clinical setting regardless of resource availability.

“Sugar Babies is a randomised controlled trial looking to determine whether a dextrose gel can reverse neonatal hypoglycaemia. It was important that the focus of my studies be something that would benefit babies and their families,” said Dr Harris.

“All babies from our hypoglycaemia studies are invited into a further study titled ‘Children with Hypoglycaemia and their Later Development (CHYLD) Study’ (also largely based in Hamilton) which has attracted international support,” said Dr Weston.

“There is much enthusiasm for what we have started here around the world.”

Prof Harding also leads this work.

Drs Harris and Weston paid tribute to Waikato Hospital’s NICU, delivery suite, postnatal services and to the region’s independent midwives.

“We must also say how grateful we are to the families involved in the Sugar Babies study,” said Dr Harris.

Waikato Medical Research Foundation , the Auckland Medical Research Foundation, the Maurice and Phyllis Paykel Trust, the Health Research Council of New Zealand and the Rebecca Roberts Scholarship provided financial support for the project.


General media enquiries
Mobile: 021 671 239
Email: news@waikatodhb.health.nz

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