Born in the midst of a pandemic, six-week-old Matilda Farquhar’s early years may be unlike those of several generations before her.
The GenV study aims to measure the physical, economic and political effects of COVID-19 in the entire population
More than 5,000 Victorian newborns are already involved, one-fifth of whom live in the regions
Involving regional hospitals can help identify health and wellness issues specific to specific areas
The Ballarat infant is one of 150,000 Victorians whose well-being will be tracked as part of a large-scale study called Generation Victoria or GenV.
The research aims to create a broad picture of health and wellness issues throughout the state to help reduce the burden of disease.
Rachael Cooper, study area manager for the Grampians region, said families with all backgrounds in Victoria would be offered the chance to participate.
“The data we collect can be used on a wide variety of studies, all of which have to do with health and wellness,” she said.
“One of the really important things about GenV is that we also include other parents, so fathers, who are often not included in research like this.”
Pandemic makes the study one of the first in the world
Newborns born over the next two years and their parents are invited to join.
But the study has gained extra international significance because it has coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“What was never conceived when the project first emerged was that this would be the COVID generation,” said Minister of Innovation and Medical Research Jaala Pulford.
“Researchers around the world will be very interested to know that we have a whole generation study – the only one of its kind – that was just ready to go at the time this COVID generation of babies was born.”
Regions are an important part of the picture
The project began in Melbourne in mid-2021, but has been expanded to include more than 25 hospitals in regional areas, from major centers such as Ballarat and Geelong, to smaller cities such as Echuca and Bairnsdale.
More than 5,000 newborns have already been involved, a fifth of whom have been born in the regions.
It is hoped that the involvement of regional families will help physicians and researchers identify health issues that are specific to specific places.
“As a first-time parent and also a person working in healthcare, my husband and I understand the importance of health research,” said Matilda’s mother, podiatrist Caitlin Farquhar.
The state government has invested $ 30 million in GenV, which is run by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute along with the Royal Children’s Hospital, the University of Melbourne and the Paul Ramsay Foundation.