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Woman holding her pregnant stomach.

The National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit at Oxford Population Health has received renewed funding from the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR)’s Policy Research Programme to continue running the Policy Research Unit (PRU) in Maternal and Neonatal Health and Care for the next five years from January 2024.

The PRU will produce high-quality research to improve the care provided by the NHS to women, babies and families during pregnancy, birth and early childhood. It aims to reduce deaths and severe illness, and improve women’s and families’ health and experiences, through working in partnership with parents, policymakers, doctors and midwives.

The PRU comprises a multidisciplinary team of researchers from seven universities led by Professors Fiona Alderdice and Marian Knight. For each project, the researchers and parent partners will work out the best way to answer research questions posed by policy-makers and share their findings in research summaries and infographics, in addition to academic journals and on social media.

Professor Fiona Alderdice, Senior Social Scientist, said ‘For the past 13 years, we have conducted research and reviewed existing evidence to improve the care given to women, their babies, and their families. I am delighted that we will be able to continue to contribute to the evidence base for clinical practice and health policy at both national and local levels.’

Professor Marian Knight, Director of the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit, said ‘Our biggest priority over the next five years will be to tackle the health and care disparities experienced by women and babies in the UK. I am thrilled that I and my colleagues have been given the opportunity to continue to address these challenges and improve health outcomes for all.’

Professor Lucy Chappell, Chief Scientific Advisor Department of Health and Social Care and Chief Executive of NIHR, said ‘In the NIHR, we have a range of ways to make sure that health and care research benefits patients and the public. The NIHR's new Policy Research Units are designed to provide strong evaluation of policy. This helps government and related organisations to be able to act on the latest evidence when making decisions about health and social care that could impact us all.

‘We are funding Policy Research Units across a range of key areas of policy ranging from cancer screening to social care. Several new topics will expand the ability of the units to help address the major healthcare challenges that we are facing, including improving reproductive health, tackling addiction as well as dementia and neurodegeneration.’

The PRU in Maternal and Neonatal Health and Care is one of 20 that have each received a share of £100 million to tackle important emerging health and social care issues. The PRUs provide both a long-term resource for policy research and a rapid response service to provide evidence for emerging policy needs.