Consumer partnership wins inaugural ACTA award

25 June 2019
Working together to find answers to preterm babies health

The NHMRC Clinical Trials Centre’s partnership with Miracle Babies Foundation - a consumer body representing parents of sick newborns - has received the Australian Clinical Trials Alliance’s inaugural award for consumer engagement.

Melinda Cruz accepting award on stage at ACTA Awards

Melinda Cruz and William Tarnow Mord onstage at the ACTA Awards


When a premature baby is born, parents are understandably focused on the health of their child and choose not to participate in studies they know little about. But without their involvement, getting answers to questions that could help to reduce avoidable deaths or long term health problems among preterm babies proves very challenging.

With the goal of assessing the best oxygen levels for preterm babies, the NHMRC Clinical Trials Centre partnered with Miracle Babies Foundation to design a study called TORPIDO 30/60 - seeking to find out if an initial oxygen concentration of 30% or 60% is better for a preterm babies health.

“What happens in the first 15 minutes from birth can dramatically alter the rest of a baby’s life,” said Professor William Tarnow-Mordi, Director of Neonatal and Perinatal Trials at the CTC and co-chair of the trial. “Small variations in routine treatment that premature babies receive soon after birth may significantly influence their survival.”

Past recruitment challenges

When a past trial of a similar nature was unable to secure enough study participants, the CTC invited Melinda Cruz of consumer group Miracle Babies Foundation to help design the trial and alleviate parental concerns.

Melinda joined Professor Ju Lee Oei of UNSW (the other co-chair of TORPIDO), and Dr Javeed Travadi and Professor Ian Wright from the University of Newcastle on the Trial Management Committee.

She helped to secure unanimous endorsement by Hunter New England Research Ethics Committee for a waiver of consent for the trial, carefully following the guidance of the National Health and Medical Research Council.2

Mother and preterm baby

Waiver of consent a huge boost

This means that eligible premature babies born before 29 weeks at participating hospitals – particularly those born at nights or on weekends – are automatically included in the trial. Before the waiver of content, these births often missed out on being included in trials.

This small change means TORPIDO could finally answer the question around the best oxygen level for preterm babies after 30 years of research, helping babies to survive and lead healthy lives.

“I am really honoured that the collaboration between parents and researchers is being acknowledged in this way,” said Melinda Cruz, who is also an Honorary Research Associate at CTC. “It is one of the biggest ways to make an impact on advancing health. I am hopeful that this recognition will open more opportunities and that working together will continue to grow.”

TORPIDO is currently enrolling participants with notices to be posted in antenatal clinics and neonatal units. Parents will be informed about it by staff after their baby is admitted for neonatal care, and they will be asked for their permission for the use of secondary data and to participate in a follow up.

More information

Read ACTA’s article on the awards.

NSW Health published an article about this unique and beneficial partnership.

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