The “Improving Maternal and Child Nutrition & Physical Activity Workforce Development Service” Project

In 2013 Gravida was awarded a three-year grant from the Ministry of Health (MOH) to develop the “Improving Maternal and Child Nutrition & Physical Activity Workforce Development Service Project”. The project is being run by Gravida and Uniservices staff from the University of Auckland, and is overseen by an advisory group drawn from key stakeholders including the National Heart Foundation, Plunket, the NZ College of Midwives and other primary care and Māori health representatives.

The project was announced by Health Minister Tony Ryall and is one of several MOH initiatives with the intention of focusing on encouraging the best start to life for families. Recent international research and advice from the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor Sir Peter Gluckman notes that pre-conditions for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and obesity are set very early – as early as pre-conception. Key public health priorities arising from this advice are therefore to better support healthy weight management by:

  • Improving women’s health during pregnancy and the postnatal period through the promotion of healthy eating and physical activity;
  • Promoting healthy feeding of babies including encouraging and supporting breastfeeding;
  • Promoting healthy feeding (including the introduction of healthy first foods and physical activity of children of pre-school age).

Gravida’s project aims to translate the latest scientific evidence and research in maternal and child health into practical, accessible information and tools for front-line health care staff. The project will include a blended-learning curriculum with accredited e-learning modules that add value and further develop the skills of all health workers who care for pregnant mothers and children.

Healthcare workers who participate in the e-learning modules, watch our seminars, attend our face-to-face workshops or sign up to be part of our database (see below) will benefit from becoming part of a strongly-networked peer community, receive the latest cutting-edge news and information, enjoy personal development – and most importantly, learn new strategies to improve the health of your patients and their families.

Who can participate?

The resources and tools developed in the project will be made available to all health care workers who care for:

  • Young families planning on getting pregnant;
  • Pregnant mothers;
  • And parents and caregivers of young children under the age of 5.

This may include health workers such as primary care representatives (GPs, nurses, healthcare assistants), public health nurses, health promotion staff, dieticians and nutritionists, Plunket nurses, Well Child/Tamariki Ora providers, Maori health and other cultural group health providers, midwives and lead maternity carers (LMCs), secondary care nurses/doctors, early learning centre staff, sports and community organisation staff.

The blended-learning curriculum within the project will be made available to specific groups in stages over the next few years.

What will the education curriculum cover?

The content of the blended-learning curriculum in this project will be developed in 2014. Initially it is planned the modules will cover both the translation of the latest scientific findings in nutrition and physical activity for women and children, and an adaptation of the “Healthy Conversations” skills training programme from the UK (MRC and Southampton University). This training has been shown to equip health care workers with sustainable skills they are able to use in routine contact with families, specifically aiming to improve their patient’s self-efficacy and a sense of control over diet and physical activity.

It is intended that part of the curriculum will include e-learning resources. Studying both the new science breakthroughs and “Healthy Conversations” together will give participants new strategies and talking points they can use to encourage behaviour change in their patients and improve health outcomes.

The curriculum will be submitted to leading health sector organisations for accreditation as part of the ongoing professional development requirements of the workforce.

Who is leading the project?

Gravida is committed to ensuring the content of our project is consistent, culturally appropriate and useful in the context of other national health targets and the priorities of the health workforce. To ensure the project best fits the needs of the workforce we have formed a project advisory group including the National Heart Foundation, Pacific Heartbeat, Plunket, the NZ College of Midwives, Tipu Ora and the Health Promotion Agency. We also intend to consult widely with other stakeholders throughout the project’s development and implementation phases.

Clinical oversight of the project will be given by Dr Anne Jaquiery, who has joint appointments at the Liggins Institute, Department of Paediatrics, University of Auckland, Food and Beverage Programme, University of Auckland and is a consultant paediatrician.

The education and curriculum development will be led by Jackie Gunn (, midwifery lecturer from the Auckland University of Technology, and team of curriculum developers from Plunket, NZ College of Midwives and Tipu Ora as well as a senior research assistant.

Project management will be led by Susan Miller (

Communications and media contact is Aimee Brock (

The full list of project team members is listed here.

How do I find out more?

To register your interest in learning more about the project or to request that your organisation be involved in consultation, please e-mail your organisations details to us at