New NUS Research Hub Targets Asian Women’s Health

Glow Women's Health Conference Indranee Rajah

The National University of Singapore (NUS) has established the Global Centre for Asian Women’s Health (GloW). 

The inauguration was held on 10 November 2023 as part of GloW’s first Singapore Women’s Health Conference. The event was graced by Ms Indranee Rajah, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office. This initiative underscores the unique health challenges Asian women face, particularly during pregnancy and childbirth.

Study Highlights Pregnancy Risks

NUS Medicine’s recent studies indicate significant risks associated with excessive weight gain during pregnancy, including increased chances of premature death.

Alarming Statistics Uncovered

Research based on the Collaborative Perinatal Project (CPP) suggests a 9% to 12% increase in all-cause mortality risk in women with excessive weight gain during pregnancy. Specifically, the risk of cardiovascular mortality rises up to 84% in those within normal weight ranges before pregnancy.

The conference shed light on complications such as preterm delivery, hypertensive disorders, and gestational diabetes. It also linked these conditions to an increased risk of long-term mortality.

GloW’s Mission

The four primary missions of GloW are:

  • Addressing common and important clinical and public health problems concerning women, children, and their families.
  • Identifying modifiable risk factors of common disorders related to women’s health by examining the complex interplay of factors, which range from dietary and lifestyle, to psychosocial, behavioural, environmental, genetic, and epigenetic.
  • Translating scientific knowledge into clinical and public health practices can lead to advancements in early prediction, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of common disorders concerning women’s health and well-being across their life courses and generations.
  • Training a new generation of medical and public health professionals to become leading transdisciplinary investigators and future leaders in women’s health with a life-course approach to health education.4

One of the primary missions of GloW is to study dietary factors linked to medical disorders. To achieve that, they are collaborating with Chef Dalton Fong to plan a diet and lifestyle intervention trial to improve women’s health outcomes.

Comprehensive Discussions

The “Promoting Women’s Health and Healthy Longevity” conference brought together experts to discuss a wide array of topics. These include the impact of diet on reproductive health and the potential of omics technologies.

In a pivotal study, researchers found that excessive weight gain during pregnancy elevates mortality risks for women. This varies with up to 12% across all causes. Notably, underweight and normal-weight women faced up to an 84% increased cardiovascular mortality risk. Meanwhile, overweight women saw a 77% rise in diabetes-related deaths. Additionally, pregnancy complications such as preterm delivery and gestational diabetes were linked to a significant spike in long-term mortality, accentuating the critical nature of GloW’s research on Asian women’s health.

“Pregnancy is an early-life stress test for the mother’s underlying cardiometabolic health, as several major pregnancy complications are linked with an increased risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases, in studies conducted in the U.S and Europe. However, the roles of pregnancy complications on chronic diseases and long-term mortality in Asian women has not been well examined. Thus, studies among Asian women, with continued, long-term follow-ups are warranted to investigate the roles of pregnancy complications on their subsequent health status and to identify effective ways to improve the long-term health of women following complicated pregnancies”, said Professor Zhang Cuilin, Director of GloW at NUS Medicine as well as principal investigator of the study.

Looking Forward

GloW seeks to fill in the research gaps in maternal health and women’s longevity. In particular, they have a focus on long-term studies and practical health interventions.

The establishment of GloW represents a significant step towards understanding and improving women’s health in Asia. It aims to bridge research and practical health solutions. By achieving this, NUS Medicine aims to make a lasting impact on the health of women and future generations.

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