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School of Health Sciences

Centre for Maternal and Child Health Research

Rapid transfer of knowledge from research into education and practice.

The Centre for Maternal and Child Health carries out high quality research that aims to improve the health and care of women, children, families and communities.

About the centre

In the Centre we recognise the close relationship between maternal and child health and the role of health services and the community in promoting population health. Our research is interdisciplinary and draws on a range of approaches to provide rigorous evidence to inform maternal and child healthcare, policy and practice.

The Centre has international partnerships with researchers in Europe, Scandinavia, South America, Africa, Australia and India. We also have links with professional, voluntary and service user organisations, and local services through which our research has informed healthcare policy and services. Working with midwifery and nursing education at City, University of London, enables rapid transfer of knowledge from research into education and practice.

The Centre comprises academic and research staff as well as doctoral students from a range of clinical, social science and health science backgrounds. Since 2008, the Centre has been engaged in current and recent projects to the value of £9 million, through research grants, consultancy and project work, and has a high profile of research outputs.

SusanAyers

Professor Susan Ayers

Our Research

The Centre for Maternal and Child Health Research carries out high quality research to improve the health and care of women, children, families and communities. The Centre provides an environment for the multi-disciplinary development of ideas and research initiatives in collaboration with professional, voluntary and service user organisations. The Centre has direct links with relevant educational programmes at City, University of London, such as midwifery, health visiting and child nursing, which enable the rapid transfer of research into education and healthcare practice.

Models of Care

Research group lead: Professor Christine McCourt

Our research focuses on the mental health and psychological wellbeing of mothers, their partners and children. Our work has three key areas: identifying mental health needs of women and their families during pregnancy and after birth; improving screening and assessment of mental health problems; and innovations in the delivery of mental health care and treatment. We have a strong multidisciplinary theme with a focus on scientific rigor using a range of methodologies.

We are currently involved in a range of research projects and programmes on issues such as international studies of women's perinatal mental health, traumatic birth, the needs of parents with preterm babies, screening for maternal and paternal wellbeing, assessment of child attachment, and evaluations of internet self-help interventions to reduce postnatal psychological problems. Our work is funded by a range of sources, including the National Institute for Health Research, NSPCC and NCT.

Our findings have been published in high impact journals and presented at conferences around the world. We have established links with a range of national and international user, professional and policy organisations such as the NCT, NSPCC and Royal Colleges (e.g. Royal College of Midwives, Royal College of General Practitioners, Royal College of Psychiatrists). We have collaborate internationally with researchers and universities in Europe, America, Africa and Australia. We host the International Network for Perinatal PTSD Research, an international research initiative founded by members of this group. Our work has influenced maternity policy in the UK and impacted on guidelines for maternal mental health.

Example Research Projects

Additional information on our current research projects can be found on the Centre for Maternal and Child Health’s Research’s blog.

  • Health After Birth Trial (HABiT), NIHR Research for Patient Benefit
  • Improving care at preterm birth, NIHR Programme Grant led by the University of Nottingham
  • Wellbeing in Pregnancy (WiP), The Boots Family Trust Alliance
  • Assessing parents wellbeing from 0 to 5 years after birth, NSPCC
  • Assessing child attachment, Family Action
  • Support needs of couples after traumatic birth, NCT doctoral studentship
  • Evaluating a peer support intervention for perinatal mental health, NCT doctoral studentship

Maternal and Child Mental Health

Research group lead: Professor Susan Ayers

Our research focusses on the mental health and psychological wellbeing of mothers, their partners and children. Our work has three key areas: identifying mental health needs of women and their families during pregnancy and after birth; improving screening for mental health problems; and innovations in the delivery of mental health care and treatment.

This multidisciplinary group comprises 9 academic and research staff and 6 doctoral students working on projects ranging from locally focused studies of mental health screening in London to international studies of mental health in women and children. Current and recent research includes examining women's perinatal mental health in developing countries; a national survey of the well-being of parents with very preterm babies; studies of birth trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder in women after birth; and evaluations of internet self-help interventions to reduce postnatal psychological problems.

We have established links with NHS Trusts and user-representative organisations in the UK, as well as international links with researchers in Europe, America, and Australasia. This includes the International Network for Perinatal PTSD Research, an international research initiative which is run by members of this group.

Additional information on our current research projects can be found on the Centre for Maternal and Child Health’s Research’s blog.

Example Research projects

Public Health, Social Diversity and Inequalities in Maternal and Child Health

Research Group Lead: Dr Katherine Curtis-Tyler

Our research focuses on population health, preventive action and health care for women and children including socially and economically marginalised groups, including issues of equity of access to and quality of care. We aim to describe inequalities in maternal and child health outcomes to inform public health policies and improve services for women, children and their families. Research includes young teenage parenting, mothering and feeding children with neurodisability, maternal and child health in relation to HIV/AIDS, and the health of  homeless and migrant populations, obesity in pregnancy and in children, sickle cell and female genital mutilation. We are currently working on projects ranging from locally focussed studies in East London to national studies, such as on prevalence of FGM and the timing of birth  and its outcome by time of day and day of the week  and international comparisons of perinatal indicators. We use a range of methodological approaches including  quantitative and qualitative methods and linkage and secondary analysis of national and linked datasets.

We have well established links with Barts Health NHS Trust, Homerton University Hospital NHS Trust and public health departments in East London as well as with the Department of Health, Home Office, the Office for National Statistics and non-governmental organisations such as Maternity Action and the NCT and international networks such as ROAM (Reproductive Outcomes and Migration) and Euro-Peristat. Our work has informed the development of maternal and child healthcare services and policy in England and internationally.

Education and Community Health

Research Group Lead: Professor Debra Salmon

Our research focuses on developing care pathways that link community and clinical services for women and children and on research into effectiveness of education to support practice. Our work aims to improve care in the community for women and children healthcare through rigorous qualitative and quantitative evaluations with an emphasis on evaluating educational and community interventions, health promotion in the community, and outreach with hard to reach or disadvantaged communities. This work is incorporated into educational programmes preparing the next generation of professionals working with women and children.

We are currently working on projects including the Toolkit project which is producing resources to improve health visiting interventions with vulnerable families, and work to prevent long term obesity through increasing exercise by women during pregnancy. Our findings have been published in high impact journals and presented at conferences around the world. We have established links with Barts Health NHS Trust, Homerton University Hospital NHS Trust, East London Mental Health NHS Trust and a range of other health Trusts, as well as the community nursing research organisation International Collaboration for Community Health Nursing Research.

Research Student Projects

PhD students and MSc students carry out a number of research projects on topics in our research areas of: models of maternity care; maternal and child mental health; education and community health; and Public health, social diversity and inequalities in maternal and child health. Examples of current research projects include maternity care in Malawi, the impact of birth trauma on couples, how mothers and babies perceive emotional expressions, online therapy for perinatal psychological problems, teenage parenthood, and supporting adolescent mothers to breastfeed.

More information on postgraduate programmes can be found here:

Networks

Midwifery Unit Network

In collaboration with the Royal College of Midwives, the Midwifery Unit Network offers support to those wishing to develop midwifery units (birth centres), and to already established midwifery units. The network acts as a hub to share good practice and information resources, and be a community of practice with a shared philosophy essential to offer consistent, excellent and safe care for women and their families.

The aim of the Midwifery Unit Network is to maximise potential for a positive childbirth experience, and to enhance the physical and psychological wellbeing of childbearing women and their babies, through the promotion and support of midwifery units (birth centres).

International Network for Perinatal PTSD Research

Established in 2005, this is a network of researchers and clinicians who are working together to reduce birth trauma and perinatal PTSD across the world.

The International Network for Perinatal PTSD Research website provides information on the latest perinatal PTSD research, events and an interactive blog where researchers can comment and post questions. The latest research papers on perinatal PTSD are posted regularly.

Parent Research Advisory Group

The Centre has a Research Advisory Group of parents and parents-to-be who work with us on our research projects. For example, parents have helped develop projects, research grant proposals, screening questionnaires, and recruitment strategies for participants.

Debra Salmon

Professor Debra Salmon

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City, University of London

Northampton Square

London EC1V 0HB

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City, University of London is an independent member institution of the University of London. Established by Royal Charter in 1836, the University of London consists of 18 independent member institutions with outstanding global reputations and several prestigious central academic bodies and activities.