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I joined the University in February 2013 as Director of the first Teenage Pregnancy Knowledge Exchange
I led the implementation of the previous Government's Teenage Pregnancy Strategy for England, which reduced the under-18 conception rate by 34% to the lowest level for 40 years, and helped improve maternity and postnatal support for young parents.
My knowledge and skills on teenage pregnancy are drawn from frontline experience as a family planning nurse and health visitor and over 25 years strategic leadership – 12 years in Government and 13 years as Policy Director for Brook, the UK's leading young people's sexual health charity.
I have extensive experience of supporting partnerships between local government and health and working with a wide range of locally elected politicians, senior leaders in health and local government, commissioners and frontline health and non-health practitioners.
The aim of the Teenage Pregnancy Knowledge Exchange is to build on the success of the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy and ensure the lessons learned are transferred to new strategic leaders and commissioners and embedded in the training of relevant practitioners.
I am delighted to be establishing the Knowledge Exchange at University of Bedfordshire with its reputation for addressing inequalities and vulnerable young people and providing high-quality health and social care training.
Reducing teenage pregnancy and improving outcomes for young parents and their children requires a multi-agency approach, involving health and non-health practitioners. Understanding teenage pregnancy policy and practice is therefore relevant to many of the Faculty's undergraduate and postgraduate courses. I will be providing teaching input to Child and Adult Nursing, Health Visiting and School Nursing, Midwifery, Youth and Community Work and Social Work programmes and the Public Health MSc. I look forward to making links between the disciplines, using teenage pregnancy as an illustration of partnership working.
There has been a considerable amount of research into teenage pregnancy and teenage parenthood. The characteristics of young people at risk have been identified and the evidence on what works is well established. I am particularly interested in developing more research into service user involvement and the social context which influences how young people and teenage parents use and benefit from services. Understanding the perceptions and attitudes of both the service user and the practitioners is essential for improving service design and the effectiveness of one to one consultations. Getting services and communication skills right is always important, but even more so when local resources are limited. Building trust in services, particularly among the most vulnerable young people, increases their early uptake of support and saves the costs of later intervention.
The following areas are examples of current research gaps which I am keen to address.
I have been involved with the development and implementation of a wide range of research in relation to teenage pregnancy, including international evidence reviews, longitudinal studies, RCTs and qualitative research.
I am currently on the advisory group of the following research programmes:
I was also on the advisory group for an RCT of Teens and Toddlers, a teenage pregnancy-personal and social development programme run by Children Our Ultimate Investment. The RCT, funded by the Department for Education was conducted by NatCen and published in 2012.
I have initiated and provided policy expertise to a number of qualitative research projects to inform and strengthen the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy. These include young people's knowledge and attitudes to contraception; teenage parents' views of support services; young men's views of condom use; and parents' views of sex and relationships education.
During the ten year implementation of the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy and in my role with Brook, I have given many presentations at conferences, seminars and professional training events. Key note addresses over the last ten years include teenage pregnancy conferences organised by the Local Government Association, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Royal Society of Medicine, Royal College of GPs, Royal College of Nursing, Royal College of Midwives and the Royal Society of Public Health. Presentations over the last six months include:
I have authored, commissioned and edited a range of Government and external publications. These have been aimed at different audiences including elected politicians, local government and health commissioners and frontline professionals. They include:
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