University of Newcastle Professor Maralyn Foureur has been honoured for her significant service to nursing in the field of midwifery by being made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in this week’s 2023 Australia Day Honours List.
During her impressive 40-year research career, Professor Maralyn Foureur’s work has contributed to globally significant advancements in maternity care and midwifery for women and their support teams.
“I love being a researcher and partnering with other brilliant researchers in nursing, midwifery and medical sciences to answer the myriad of questions and challenges we face in health services across our region, nationally and internationally.
“Together, we are working to improve the health and wellbeing of our communities, and this makes me proud.”
In the mid-1990s, Professor Foureur’s PhD study introduced an entirely new model of maternity care into Australia known as “continuity of care”, which is now championed as best practice in Australia and many others worldwide.
Professor Foureur’s PhD research was ahead of its time. Her randomised controlled trial was the first project to explore “continuity of care” within midwifery – not just for low-risk women, but for all. What she uncovered would help revolutionise Australia’s approach to midwifery care in the years that followed.
“My PhD had a major impact in Australia and internationally. This model enables women to meet a small group of midwives during pregnancy, one of whom will provide her with care throughout her labour and birth and in the early days with her new baby.”
“Women overwhelmingly regard continuity of midwifery care during pregnancy, childbirth and the early postnatal period as the gold standard of care models. It meets their needs for a knowledgeable professional companion to guide them and their family through the unknown experience of childbirth.”
Together with evidence from 15 similar studies, Professor Foureur’s work now informs health policy across Australia and is cited by globally respected entities such as the Cochrane Collaboration and the World Health Organization. The studies demonstrated that women who were provided with continuity of care were 24% less likely to experience preterm birth or early pregnancy loss.
In the past decade, Professor Foureur’s research focus has shifted from continuity of care to the architecture and design of birth units in Australian hospitals. She considers the built environment can have a significant impact on a woman’s neurophysiology during childbirth. Her research is exploring ways to improve birthing spaces for women and their support teams.
“We want to provide women and their families – and the staff who care for them – with an environment that is more likely to result in positive birth experiences for all.”
Professor Foureur described receiving the Member of the Order of Australia award (AM) as an acknowledgment for the midwifery profession in Australia.
“I am really happy to receive this recognition as a representative of all the midwives in Australia who work tirelessly to improve the experiences of women and families in our maternity care system.
“I have been overwhelmed with congratulations from the midwifery and nursing communities and an incredible number of members of the general public – all of whom are touched by experiences of childbirth.”
LIST OF OTHER NURSES AND MIDWIVES HONOURED
MEDAL OF THE ORDER (OAM)
Mrs Diane Elizabeth Bilka: For service to nursing. Remote Area Nursing.
Mrs Mary Lorna Burgess: For service to the community through charitable organisations
Mrs Bronwyn Crosby: For service to community health.
Mrs Maureen (Mandy) Langdon: For service to nursing.
Ms Beverley Jean McCormack: For service to remote area nursing.
Mrs Yoko Mills: For service to nursing.
Mrs Narelle Judith O’Rourke: For service to the preservation of nursing history.
MEMBER OF THE ORDER (AM)
Ms Lucinda Jane Barry: For significant service to public health policy in executive roles, and to medicine.
Dr Therese Burke: For significant service to medicine, particularly to multiple sclerosis research, and to nursing.
Ms Jennifer Elizabeth Collins: For significant service to veterans and their families, and to nursing.
Professor Maralyn Foureur: For significant service to nursing in the field of midwifery.
Ms Susan Pearce: For significant service to public health administration and governance.