John Newnham

Professor, MB BS MD W.Aust., FRCOG, FRANZCOG, DDU, CMFM, 2020 Senior Australian of the Year

  • The University of Western Australia (M550), 35 Stirling Highway,

    6009 Perth


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Personal profile


John Newnham AM graduated in medicine from The University of Western Australia in 1976 and pursued postgraduate training in obstetrics in Australia, Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States. He became a professor in 1989 and has stayed with us ever since.

His enduring research and clinical passion has been to unravel the mysteries of life before birth, how health and disease throughout our lifespan may result from events while we are a foetus, and how common illnesses and disabilities can be prevented by strategies during pregnancy.

In 1989, Professor Newnham pioneered the Raine Study, which involved recruiting 2900 unborn babies at 18 weeks of pregnancy and then following their health, and that of their family, for life. This was the world’s first pregnancy-focused lifetime cohort study and remains one of the most successful medical research studies to have been conducted in Australia.

More recently, he has applied three decades of research findings to discover how the rate of preterm birth may be lowered at a population level. In 2014 he launched the Western Australian Preterm Birth Prevention Initiative and its early success has now enabled him to expand the program nationally. 

In July 2018 he led the development of the Australian Preterm Birth Prevention Alliance, supported by NHMRC in Canberra. This alliance is the world’s first national program aiming to safely reduce the rate of harmful early birth across its population.

Professor Newnham is Head of the UWA Division of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, based at King Edward Memorial Hospital, and Chief Scientific Director of the Women and Infants Research Foundation. He is also an Adjunct Professor at Peking University, Beijing.

During his time at UWA, Professor Newnham’s research has led to worldwide changes in clinical practice, in particular in the management and prevention of preterm labour. He has published nearly 400 original articles in peer-review journals; his research has been funded by NIH (US) for 27 years and by NHMRC for 30 years; and he has attracted more than $25 million in grant support.

Professor Newnham also teaches Integrated Medical Practice Part 1 and Integrated Medical Practice Part 2 as part of the Doctor of Medicine (MD) course.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 2 - Zero Hunger
  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 4 - Quality Education

Research expertise keywords

  • Fetal medicine and surgery
  • Fetal origins of child and adult disease
  • Pre-term birth (prevention of)


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