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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 Labour Government's Teenage Pregnancy Strategy for England, which reduced the under-18 conception rate by 55% to the lowest level for 40 years, and helped improve maternity and postnatal support for young parents.
The aim of the Teenage Pregnancy Knowledge Exchange is to build on the success of the Strategy and ensure the lessons learned are transferred to policy makers and strategic leaders - in the UK and internationally - and embedded in the training of relevant practitioners.
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 am currently Teenage Pregnancy Advisor to Public Health England and working with the World Health Organisation to share the success factors of the Strategy with other countries seeking to address high teenage pregnancy rates and improve adolescent sexual and reproductive health.
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. I have recently authored a book - Teenage pregnancy and young parenthood: effective policy and practice - written with Professor Roger Ingham of Southampton University, in collaboration with Dr Venkatraman Chandra-Mouli from WHO and published by Routledge as part of their Adolescence and Society Series.
I am delighted to have established the Knowledge Exchange at the 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 relevant to many of the Faculty's undergraduate and postgraduate courses. I provide teaching input to Child and Adult Nursing, Health Visiting and School Nursing, Midwifery and Youth and Community Work, with a focus on evidence based practice and the contribution of each profession to local teenage pregnancy programmes.
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:
A school based social marketing intervention to improve sexual health and reduce unintended pregnancies in England. London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London. ukctg.nihr.ac.uk/trials/trial-details/trial-details?trialNumber=ISRCTN12524938
Young men and unintended pregnancy: The JACK trial. Queens University, Belfast. www.qub.ac.uk/sites/IfIWereJack
I was previously on the advisory groups of the following research programmes:
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.
As Director of the Teenage Pregnancy Knowledge Exchange and Teenage Pregnancy Advisor to Public Health England, I have given many presentations at national and international conferences, seminars and professional training events. Examples of recent presentations 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. Recent publications include:
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