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Women’s action for Mums and Bubs (WOMB): A trial of participatory women’s groups to improve Indigenous maternal and child health

Project Summary

This is a trial of using participatory women’s groups (PWGs) to improve Indigenous maternal and child health. We know that community involvement in Indigenous health care helps to improve health outcomes. Through continuous quality improvement some gains in quality of care have been made but more needs to be done. We know that in some low resource countries community involvement in maternal and child health (MCH) helps to empower women and leads to health improvements for women and their babies. In Australia, we don’t know whether improvement in MCH outcomes will result from Indigenous women’s groups engaging with MCH data. This project aims to find out:

  • The effectiveness of women’s groups in improving quality of care and intermediate outcomes in MCH;
  • The cost-effectiveness of women’s groups for improving quality of MCH care; and
  • The degree to which the women’s groups are associated with a change in global empowerment measure scores.

Our Investigators

  • Professor Ross Bailie
  • Professor Megan Passey
  • Associate Professor Veronica Matthews


  • Professor Sarah Larkins, James Cook University
  • Professor Catrina Felton-Busch, James Cook University
  • Dr Judy Taylor, James Cook University
  • Professor Yvonne Cadet-James, James Cook University

Partner organisations

The project is support by the National Health and Medical Research Council and supported by partner organisations James Cook University.


Four-year project currently underway (originally 2018-2022, extended until 2023)

What does the Project focus on?

The work involved in the project includes:

  • Identifying services and communities that want to take part.
  • Working with these services in a learning community.
  • Identifying suitable women to be part of a women’s group (or suitable local group).
  • Identification of individuals who will work as facilitators and attend two-way learning workshops (will be nominated by primary health care services including Aboriginal Health Practitioners in association with community women’s groups).
  • PWGs will share local knowledge and community perspectives, focus on building community expectations, encourage community ownership of services, and engage in activism for quality care.
  • Workshops that look at facilitation skills, MCH audit data, and working in partnership.
  • Following the workshops, the facilitators will work with the women’s groups and health care staff to prioritise action, plan strategies, co-implement plans and evaluate progress through the annual audit cycles.

What type of project is it?

Cluster-randomised stepped-wedge trial

What do we hope to achieve?

Indigenous community involvement in health care is of vital importance. But there is limited evidence in mainstream health thinking about how or why it is important. This project is valuable because it provides an opportunity to learn from communities and from women’s groups about how and why we should all work in partnership to continue to improve the health of mothers and babies.


Additional information is available on the James Cook University website