Born in Bradford’s Better Start (BiBBS) research

Here we learn more about the vital role of the BiBBs Community Research Assistant Team and their Perinatal Project Administrators, Saiqa and Shazaeb, and what a typical week looks like for them.

This article demonstrates how the Born in Bradford’s Better Start (BiBBS) research is taking place and the work the Perinatal Project Administrators are doing to develop the research.

The BiBBS study is inviting all pregnant women and their families who live in Bowling and Barkerend, Bradford Moor and Little Horton to take part in the study. BiBBS collects information about pregnancy and children as they grow to help show the impact that the Better Start Bradford programme is having on children and their families to help plan healthier and happier lives for families who live in the Bradford area and across England. BiBBS is run by the Born in Bradford (BiB) study.

Bradford Royal Infirmary’s (BRI) maternity ward is one of the busiest in the country, with around 6,000 births per year. Every day, among the new born babies, mums, midwives, nurses and doctors, there’s a team striving to support the mums, while also gathering information for the Born in Bradford Better Start (BiBBS) study, which aims to have recruited 5,000 mums by December 2023.

What’s it like being part of the research team?

There are 11 of us in the Community Research Assistant Team, including two Perinatal Project Administrators.

Between us we have set tasks each day, which involve database crosschecking, paperwork, clinics, visits to mums on the maternity wards, taking samples, contacting expectant mums and signposting into Better Start Bradford projects, and outreach work.

Our day normally starts at 7.30am when we check the status of any mums from the Better Start Bradford area that are on the maternity ward. It is so important that we not only double check, but triple check the database to ensure that there have been no complications with any mums that would mean it inappropriate to approach the mum in question.

We haven’t had a day yet when there hasn’t been at least one new mum from the Better Start Bradford area, and the most we’ve had in one day was seven! Quite often the mums can be resting, so often we can have numerous trips to the ward in a day, so we don’t disturb their rest.

It’s wonderful chatting to the new mums with their newborn next to them. We work hard to build rapport with them before we start talking to them about the breastfeeding support that is available and other Better Start Bradford projects that may benefit them. We can spend over 10 minutes with each mum, sometimes longer as we may have had the mum’s prior permission to take a sample of their hair, which will be sent for testing for stress levels during pregnancy.

We have a really great working relationship with the BRI staff and we help run the Glucose Tolerance Test (GTT) appointments every day from Monday to Friday, which is usually carried out at around 26 weeks of pregnancy. We manage the reception and book all women in and explain the test. This poses a perfect opportunity for us to identify and approach expectant mums eligible for the BiBBS study.

At this point, they are asked to consent to using additional blood from that sample for the BiBBS study to measure for diabetes and cholesterol levels, which gives us more information about women’s health.

We then take mums to our dedicated BiBBS room at the maternity unit and conduct a one-to-one session of up to 40 minutes, which involves a questionnaire and seeking consent to take a hair sample after the birth of their baby. The hair samples end up at a laboratory in Sweden, where they will be analysed for stress levels throughout the pregnancy.

We also run a GTT (Glucose Tolerance Test) clinic at St Luke’s Hospital once a month in partnership with the Clover midwifery team. This team is another project set up by Better Start Bradford, which provides a personalised midwifery service and the same midwife’s care through pregnancy.

We spend the rest of our day doing follow-up calls with expectant mothers that we think may benefit from Better Start Bradford’s ESOL for Pregnancy course, which is a friendly English language course for pregnant women living in the Better Start Bradford area.

We get a really good take-up for this as within our team we speak a wide range of languages including Urdu, Punjabi, Arabic, Tamil, Pahari, Mirpuri, Marathi, Romanian, Hungarian and German. Our record is eight referrals in a week.

We also chat to them about the Baby Steps programme, which is offered to expectant parents in the Better Start Bradford area to help them with the transition into parenthood.

And finally, we do follow-up calls with mums that we have met on the wards to remind them of the Breastfeeding Support Service and other Better Start Bradford projects that they may be interested in.

As you can see there is a continuous cycle of elements to keep on top of within our role. This involves lots of organised management, paperwork and logging and triple checking of information in between face-to-face contact with the expectant and post-birth mums, and the numerous trips around the hospital between clinics, maternity wards and the laboratories – we certainly get our daily steps in!

How the Perinatal Support Administrator role is expanding its reach within Bradford’s Start For Life Programme

The learning from the BiBBS Community Research Assistant Team and the Perinatal Support Administrators has demonstrated how vital the role of the Perinatal Support Administrator is. Learning has demonstrated how this model has been intrinsic in referring women and families into the BiBBS cohort and Better Start Bradford projects.

This learning has now been transferred and shared more widely within the Bradford district, with the Perinatal Support Administrator role being embedded in other areas within the district to support the Start for Life Programme, to enable signposting and referral of women and families into to district-wide services to support their transition to parenthood within their local area.

Bradford district’s Family Hubs and Start for Life Programme involve a number of partners who are working together to ensure a seamless and joined-up offer is made available for families. The partnership includes Bradford Council, Bradford and Craven Health and Care Partnership, the district care trust and Bradford and Airedale Hospital Trusts, Better Start Bradford and a number of local voluntary sector organisations.

Bradford is one of 75 local authorities that received a share of the £301.75 million Family Hubs and Start for Life Programme funding package for the period 2022–2025.

About A Better Start

A Better Start is a ten-year (2015-2025), £215 million programme set-up by The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK.

Five A Better Start partnerships based in Blackpool, Bradford, Lambeth, Nottingham and Southend are supporting families to give their babies and very young children the best possible start in life. Working with local parents, the A Better Start partnerships are developing and testing ways to improve their children’s diet and nutrition, social and emotional development, and speech, language and communication.

The work of the programme is grounded in scientific evidence and research. A Better Start is place-based and enabling systems change. It aims to improve the way that organisations work together and with families to shift attitudes and spending towards preventing problems that can start in early life. It is one of five major programmes set up by The National Lottery Community Fund to test and learn from new approaches to designing services which aim to make people’s lives healthier and happier

The National Children’s Bureau is coordinating an ambitious programme of shared learning for A Better Start, disseminating the partnerships’ experiences in creating innovative services far and wide, so that others working in early childhood development or place-based systems change can benefit.

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Visit the A Better Start website to find out more.