A new research collaboration aimed at accelerating capabilities and improving research on maternal and infant health has received a £1.4 million funding boost.
The Mother & Infant Research Electronic Data Analysis (MIREDA) partnership, led by the National Centre for Population Health & Wellbeing Research based at Swansea University, has been awarded the grant from the Medical Research Council (MRC).
The partnership brings together leading researchers from Swansea, the University of Edinburgh, King’s College London, the University of Nottingham, the University of Birmingham, and the Bradford Institute for Health Research.
Poverty, disadvantage and associated poor health frequently start at the earliest stages of life with behaviours such as drug and alcohol use affecting a baby's development before and after birth with implications that can last a lifetime.
MIREDA aims to improve maternal and infant health, particularly among disadvantaged groups by developing new resources and tools for research using routinely collected data.
Addressing inequalities in society starts with improving maternal and neonatal health. Given societal and economic challenges including rising obesity, escalating living costs, inequality and large sections of society facing poverty and deprivation, it has never been more important to be able to understand how best to protect future generations.
MIREDA will shape understanding and inform interventions by:
- Creating a UK resource that includes harmonised maternal and infant birth-cohort health data linked to local datasets in public health, neonatal health, imaging, primary care and hospitals;
- Establishing a multidisciplinary collaboration to undertake analysis in each cohort without needing to move the data;
- Developing methods for data standardisation and common data management across datasets and implementing software for automating epidemiological study methods;
- Working with others to build research capacity and networks in the field, using online and face-to-face workshops, seminars, conferences, and research development group meetings to share knowledge and skills; and,
- Providing pump-priming funding to support rising-star researchers and international maternal and infant health collaborations. It will also leverage additional funds for research to improve maternal care and infant outcomes.
Professor Sinead Brophy, Director of the Centre for Population Health and lead on the partnership, said: "The Centre is committed to ensuring that Wales is at the forefront of developing population health capabilities and research around maternal and infant health. We greatly look forward to working with our partners over the next three years to develop and deliver MIREDA.
“The timing for this partnership has never been so important. As disadvantage and deprivation become ever-more pressing societal issues, it is becoming increasingly urgent to mitigate the risks to maternal and infant health that are strongly associated with them.
“Due to the expansion of big data, there are many maternal and infant datasets around the UK that could be harmonised, analysed and compared by researchers. But access, governance, computational capacity and the analyst skills required are all serious barriers. MIREDA will develop the tools, infrastructure and expertise needed to remove these barriers – enabling researchers in the UK to advance research into maternal and infant health – to improve life-course outcomes and help break the cycle of poverty."
Professor Kieran Walshe, Director of Health and Care Research Wales, added: “We are delighted to see this innovative and exciting partnership putting maternal and infant health at the forefront of Welsh research capability, and look forward to seeing the MIREDA partnership develop with colleagues from across the UK and with welcome support from the MRC, to help improve real-life outcomes in maternal and infant health.”