Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


What are the areas of interest?

The Barwon Infant Study explores a range of research areas about the development and wellbeing of children including:

  • Allergies
  • Cardiovascular health
  • Dental health
  • Eye health
  • Genetics
  • Lifestyle
  • Mental health
  • Neurodevelopment
  • Respiratory health
  • Physical Growth

Who is running the study?

The Barwon Infant Study is funded by the National Health Medical Research Council and conducted in partnership with the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and Deakin University.

Who is in the study?

Participants in the study include over 1,000 mother-infant pairs from the Barwon region in Victoria, Australia.


How long will the study go for?

BIS is a longitudinal study. The longer BIS continues the more valuable it becomes. The aim of BIS is to develop new knowledge about how to give kids the best start to life. As of 2020, our valuable participants have been involved in BIS for 7-9 years now with the help of continued funding and evolving research questions following the developmental milestones of childhood. The study will continue to follow participants throughout early life with the help of continued funding.


Am I still in the study?

All BIS participants recruited from birth are ongoing participants in the study. All components of BIS are optional for our participants and we will gain consent at each review. We understand that life can be busy with young families and we make every effort to work around our participants. If you do not wish to complete a specific component or would like to withdraw from the study completely, we will accommodate all your needs.


What is data linkage?

Data Linkage is a technique used by researchers and to match existing information with routinely collected data. The purpose of the project is to use data linkage to get information from the source, meaning that we can reduce the length of our study questionnaires and the amount of information we ask you to recall. We are interested in the public health data and also some education records now that the BIS kids are at school. All data is DEIDENTIFIED, meaning it does not contain you or your child’s identifying details, such as name, DOB or address. We will NEVER be requesting information on sensitive information such as; criminal records, Centrelink or welfare payments, sexual assault services, etc. In the BIS Primary School review, we will ask your consent for health-related records such as Medicare. Data linkage is highly regulated and secure, with your permission needed to access any of your identifiable information.


Data Linkage Participant Information

Data Linkage FAQ Sheet

What if I no longer wish to be involved in the study?

BIS appreciates all the time our participants have provided us over the years. Without you, BIS wouldn’t have been able to collect the amount of information that has led us to new discoveries to help our children develop in a healthy way. If you no longer wish to be involved with BIS, please contact us via email, or phone us at 0400 432 976 and one of our research assistants will assist you.

What are the potential benefits of continuing with the study?

The information we gain from this study is likely to help develop strategies that may reduce the risk of disease among children and adults in Australia and around the world. However, we cannot guarantee or promise that your child will receive any direct benefits from this research. It is also possible that the data and biological samples will be used to develop specific preventative and/or treatment agents and technologies that may benefit Australian or international stakeholders. Please note that all samples that are sent out of the immediate BIS environment will be de-identified.
As part of the Primary School review, BIS will provide you with a report regarding your child’s neurodevelopment, dental and a general overview of your child’s health and development.

Can I complete just the online components of each review as we no longer live in the Barwon Region?

Even if you and your family are no longer living in the Barwon region, you are still able to continue being a part of the BIS study. A BIS team member can discuss with you the different ways of being involved in this project.


What are the major research questions?

There are a number of major areas that we are researching here at BIS.

BIS Immune and Allergy

The first major area of research is immune system development. BIS is seeking to learn more about how a babies’ environment effects the development of their immune system. The hypothesis is that a good diversity of microbes in the babies’ gut promotes healthy immune development. To find this out, BIS will be looking at faecal samples that have been collected and comparing the gut flora. This provides a good measure of what microbes babies have come into contact with. This information will be combined with analysis of white blood cells which will be isolated from babies’ blood samples; as well as data collected on chemical or environmental exposures. Together these findings may assist in understanding the development of allergic and other immune diseases. The BIS is also investigating correlations between vitamin D deficiency and food allergy, and maternal antenatal folate levels with asthma and allergic disease. 


BIS Respiratory

The second major area BIS is researching is the respiratory system, specifically, how babies’ lungs grow. When the BIS babies are four weeks old, families are invited to participate in an optional lung function test. These tests use tidal breathing washout of an inert gas during baby’s natural sleep as a means of assessing how well a baby’s lungs are working, and this in turn provides important information about how their lungs developed during pregnancy. The results of the lung function tests are correlated with information that has been gathered during pregnancy and will hopefully give BIS important information about how conditions like asthma develop.  







BIS Cardiovascular

The third major area BIS is researching is the early life origins of cardiovascular diseases, like heart attacks and stroke. Cardiovascular disease is one of Australia’s biggest health issues, with over 3.5 million Australians affected. Parents are invited to participate in an ultrasound of their baby’s aorta (a large blood vessel) at the four week clinic visit. Even though CVD is considered to be an adult disease, there is evidence that it starts to develop in infancy and BIS hopes to investigate early life factors that may influence CVD developing later in life.


BIS Neurodevelopment

There has been an increase in behavioural and developmental problems among children over recent decades. The environmental factors contributing to this are unknown, however there is considerable concern regarding the role of modern environmental chemical exposures. The objective of BIS Neurodevelopment is to assess the prospective association between early life exposure to a panel of potential neurotoxicants, and deficits in attention, inhibition, short-term memory and general development during the first years of life.