The Aboriginal Birth Cohort Study (ABC) is a prospective, life course study of Aboriginal newborns, investigating the causes of non-communicable chronic diseases, with special emphasis on early causes and preventative interventions.

It is the longest and largest study of Aboriginal people in Australia and is now in its 26th year. 

Researchers have been following the health and wellbeing of 686 babies from birth through childhood, adolescence and into adulthood with regular, comprehensive health checks conducted at their place of residence. The new fourth wave of follow-up will begin in 2013.
 

As a prospective Aboriginal life course study, the main aim is to assess the effect of early life factors, birth and childhood, on later physical and mental health, and to examine which factors influence these across the life course.

This study seeks to identify those who are most at risk of developing chronic conditions, such as diabetes, heart and kidney disease and mental health problems.

The ABC study was founded by Dr Susan Sayers who initially aimed to study outcomes of fetal growth restriction (FGR) within the womb on subsequent growth and development of chronic diseases in adulthood.

The ABC cohort was recruited from the Royal Darwin Hospital between 1987 and 1990 and has been followed up by the research team at two subsequent time periods.

Wave-1 Recruitment (1987-1990 n= 686) 

Between 1987 and 1990, Dr Sayers recruited 686 babies born to mothers who identified as Aboriginal, at the Royal Darwin Hospital. Maternal, perinatal and neonatal data were collected. The cohort represents almost half (55%) of the entire 1238 eligible Aboriginal infants in the NT over this period. 

Wave-2 (1998-2001 n= 572)

This follow-up, led by Dr Sayers and including Dr Gurmeet Singh, occurred when participants had a mean age of 11 years. Data collected included body measurements (weight, height, head, mid upper arm, waist circumference and skinfold), respiratory, renal (size and function), metabolic, cardiovascular, haematological and socioeconomic measures.
An overview of this wave of data collection can be viewed here.

Wave-3 (2005-2008 n= 469)

This follow-up, led by Dr Gurmeet Singh, has been our most extensive wave of data collection. Follow-up occurred when participants were a mean age of 18 years. Data collected included body measurements (weight, height, head, mid upper arm, waist circumference and skinfold), renal (size and function), metabolic, cardiovascular, haematological and socioeconomic measures. Questionnaires were used to assess lifestyle habits including smoking and alcohol use. A specifically designed, culturally appropriate questionnaire was administered to assess psycho-emotional wellbeing, resilience and suicide ideation. This wave also included substudies in: oral health, assessed by a questionnaire and dental examination; hepatitis B immunity; and iodine status.

An overview of this wave of data collection can be viewed here.

Wave-4:

The fourth wave of data collection for this unique cohort commenced in 2013 and will continue through to 2015. The cohort is now aged between 24-28 years and researchers will again be travelling to over 40 communities, both urban and remote, across the Top End.

If you would like to know when we will be in your community, please send us an email or call/text 0458 543 765.

As in previous follow-ups, participants will undergo a comprehensive health check, including:

  • body measurements
  • blood pressure
  • ultrasounds of kidneys, thyroid and carotid (artery in your neck)
  • blood and urine testing
  • emotional well-being and thinking ability.

If you are a part of the cohort and would like more information on what you can expect when we see you, please click on the links below:

Community involvement:

As in previous waves, the research team values the support and guidance offered by members of the Aboriginal communities it visits. We will be looking to employ local community members to assist in the research process. For more information, please email the research team.

Sub-studies:

As before, this wave will include two sub-studies:

  • Mandatory fortification of bread

This cohort was seen in Wave-3 prior to the mandatory fortification of iodised salt and folate in bread, therefore providing baseline data. The study is ideally positioned to assess the effectiveness of this public health measure in this Aboriginal cohort and to provide FSANZ with essential information.

  • Hepatitis B immunity 

This cohort was one of the first to receive Hepatitis B immunisation at birth. The study will again be able to assess if this vaccination is still working into the cohorts' 20s.

  1. Australia’s 7 Up: the revealing study tracking babies to adults

    Australia’s 7 Up: the revealing study tracking babies to adults

    Date

    Dr Gurmeet Singh is the director of the Aboriginal Birth Cohort (ABC), the longest and largest Aboriginal Cohort in Australia.

  2. 730NT: Tracking down Darwinites' health

    730NT: Tracking down Darwinites' health

    Date

    It's the nation's largest and longest-running study of Aboriginal people - and it's happening here in the Northern Territory.

  3. On the road again: Nation's oldest and largest Aboriginal health study

    On the road again: Nation's oldest and largest Aboriginal health study

    Date

    The oldest and largest study of Aboriginal people in Australia has begun its fourth wave of data collection.

Study Director:
Study Founder:
Researcher Team:
  • Belinda Davison, Project Manger
  • Joseph Fitz, Project Officer
  • Jennifer Goodall, Project Officer
  • Sarah Eastley, Research Project Assistant
  • Kathleen Montgomery-Quin, Research Project Assistant
  • Evan McRobb, Research Project Assistant.
Chief Investigators:
Associate Investigators:
  • Professor Anne Chang, Menzies School of Health Research
  • Associate Professor David Brown, University of New South Wales
  • Dr Julie Brimblecombe, Menzies School of Health Research
  • Professor Kerin O'Dea, University of South Australia
  • Professor Wendy Hoy, University of Queensland.
Collaborations, past and present:
  • Food Standards Australia New Zealand
  • Centre for Chronic Disease, School of Medicine, University of Queensland
  • National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance, New South Wales
  • School of Population, University of Adelaide, South Australia
  • Institute of Health and Society, Newcastle University, United Kingdom
  • Indigenous Oral Health Unit, Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health, South Australia
  • Australian Centre for Control of Iodine Deficiency Diseases, New South Wales.
Wave 1:
  1. Sayers, S.M., & Powers, J.R. (1992). An evaluation of three methods used to assess the gestational age of Aboriginal neonates. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, 28(4), 312-317. 
  2. Sayers, S.M., & Powers, J.R. (1993). Birth size of Australian Aboriginal babies. Medical Journal of Australia, 159(9), 586-591.
  3. Sayers, S., & Powers, J. (1997). Risk factors for Aboriginal low birthweight, intrauterine growth retardation and preterm birth in the Darwin Health Region. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 21(5), 524-530.
  4. Allan, R.A., Sayers, S., Powers, J., & Singh, G. (2009). The development and evaluation of a simple method of gestational age estimation. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, 45(1-2), 15-19.
Wave 2:
  1. Sayers, S.M., Mackerras, D., Singh, G., Bucens, I., Flynn, K., & Reid, A. (2003). An Australian Aboriginal birth cohort: a unique resource for a life course study of an Indigenous population. A study protocol. BMC International Health and Human Rights, 3(1), 1.
  2. Sayers, S., Mackerras, D., Halpin, S., & Singh, G. (2007). Growth outcomes for Australian Aboriginal children aged 11 years who were born with intrauterine growth retardation at term gestation. Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology, 21(5), 411-417.
  3. Sayers, S.M., Mackerras, D., Singh, G., & Reid, A. (2004). In an Aboriginal birth cohort, only child size and not birth size, predicts insulin and glucose concentrations in childhood. Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, 65(2), 151-157.
  4. Bucens, I.K., Reid, A., & Sayers, S.M. (2006). Risk factors for reduced lung function in Australian Aboriginal children. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, 42(7-8), 452-457.
  5. Mackerras, D.E., Reid, A., Sayers, S.M., Singh, G.R., Bucens, I.K., & Flynn, K.A. (2003). Growth and morbidity in children in the Aboriginal Birth Cohort Study: the urban-remote differential. Medical Journal of Australia, 178(2), 56-60.
  6. Cunningham, T.E., Sayers, S.M., & Singh, G.R. (2009). Lipoprotein(a) identifies cardiovascular risk in childhood: the Australian Aboriginal Birth Cohort Study. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, 47(5), 257-61.
  7. Sayers, S., Singh, G., Mott, S., McDonnell, J., & Hoy, W. (2009). Relationships of birth weight and biomarkers of chronic disease in childhood: Aboriginal Birth Cohort Study 1987–2001. Pediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology, 23(6), 548-556.
  8. Sellars, E.A.C., Singh, G., & Sayers, S. (2009). ApoB/A1 identifies cardiovascular risk in childhood: the Australian Aboriginal Birth Cohort Study 1987-2001. Diabetes and Vascular Disease Research, 6(2), 94-99.
  9. Sellers, A.C., Singh, G.R., & Sayers, S.M. (2008). Large waist but low BMI: the metabolic syndrome in Australian Aboriginal children. Journal of Pediatrics, 156(2), 222-227.
Wave 3:
  1. Sayers, S., Singh, G., Mackerras, D., Gunthorpe, W., Jamieson, L., Davison, B., et al. (2009). Australian Aboriginal Birth Cohort Study: follow-up processes at 20 years. BMC International Health and Human Rights 2009; 9(23).
  2. Jamieson, L.M., Sayers, S.M., & Roberts-Thomson, K.F. (2010). Clinical oral health outcomes in young Australian Aboriginal adults compared with national-level counterparts. Medical Journal of Australia, 192(10), 558-561.
  3. Mackerras, D.E., Singh, G.R., & Eastman, C.J. (2011). Iodine status of Aboriginal teenagers in the Darwin region before mandatory iodine fortification of bread. Medical Journal of Australia, 194(3), 126-30.
  4. Thomas, A., Cairney, S., Gunthorpe, W., Paradies, Y., & Sayers, S. (2010). Strong Souls: development and validation of a culturally appropriate tool for assessment of social and emotional well-being in Indigenous youth. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 44(1),  40-8.
  5. Lewis, M.S., Dingwall, K.M., Berkhout, N., Sayers, S., Maruff, P., & Cairney, S.  (2010). Assessment of cognition in an adolescent Indigenous population. Australian Psychologist, 45(2), 123-131.
  6. Sayers, S., Mott, S., & Singh, G.R. (2011). Fetal growth restriction and 18-year growth and nutritional status: Aboriginal Birth Cohort 1987–2007. American Journal of Human Biology, 23(3), 417-419.
  7. Jamieson, L.M., Roberts-Thomson, K., & Sayers, S. (2010). Dental caries risk indicators among Australian Aboriginal young adults. Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology, 38(3), 213-221.
  8. Priest, N.C., Paradies, Y.C., Gunthorpe, W., Cairney, S.J., & Sayers, S.M. (2011). Racism as a determinant of social and emotional wellbeing for Aboriginal Australian youth. Medical Journal of Australia, 194(10), 546-550.
  9. Jamieson, L., Kapellas, K., Roberts-Thomson, K., & Sayers, S. (2011). Validity of dental screening questions in an Indigenous young adult population. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 35(1), 87-88.
  10. Singh, G.R., Sayers, S.M., & Mackerras, D.E.M. (2009). The Australian Aboriginal Birth Cohort: The life course and much more. Australasian Epidemiologist, 16(3), 14-16. 
Related publications:
  1. Singh, G. R. (2009). Glomerulonephritis and managing the risks of chronic renal Disease. Pediatric Clinics of North America, 56(6), 1363-1382.
  2. Sayers, S., & Lancaster, P.A.L. (2008). Fetal growth retardation: causes and outcomes. International Encyclopedia of Public Health, 2, 613-622.
  3. Sayers, S.M. (2009). Indigenous newborn care. Pediatric Clinics of North America, 56(6), 1243-61.
  4. Sayers, S., & Boyle, J. (2010). Indigenous perinatal and neonatal outcomes: a time for preventive strategies. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, 46(9), 475-478.
  5. Mackerras, D. E., Singh, G.R., & Sayers, S. (2010). The Aboriginal Birth Cohort Study: When is a cohort study not a cohort design? Nutrition and Dietetics, 67(3), 171-176.
  6. Mackerras, D., & Singh, G. (2007). The prevalence of anaemia depends on the definition: an example from the Aboriginal Birth Cohort Study. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 61(1), 135-139. 
Indigenous  literature:
  1. Fitz, J. (2011). Challenges for an Indigenous researcher working with young people in Alice Springs. Aboriginal and Islander Health Worker Journal, 35(6), 12-13. 
  2. Sayers, S., Davison, B., Fitz, J., & Singh, G. (2011). Aboriginal Birth Cohort Study-Wave 3: Selected results: The good news and the bad news. Aboriginal and Islander Health Worker Journal, 35(5), 23-24. 
  3. Sayers, S., Fitz, J., Singh, G., Shultz, K., Davison, B., & Jamieson, L. (2008). Update on the Aboriginal Birth Cohort Study: Wave 3 Methods at 20 Years.  Aboriginal and Islander Health Worker Journal, 32(4), 18-20.
  4. Sayers, S., Mackerras, D., & Singh, G. (2004). Update on the Aboriginal Birth Cohort Study. Aboriginal and Islander Health Worker Journal, 28(2), 6-8.
  5. Bailey, A. (1993). From Health Worker to Health Worker ... across Australia: An Aboriginal Infant Study. Aboriginal and Islander Health Worker Journal, 17(3), 5-6. 

For more information on the study and/or the current wave of data collection, please contact Belinda Davison, Project Manager via:

  • Email
  • Phone:  (08) 8922 8701
  • Mobile:  0458 543 765