Evaluating the impact of early life interventions using the world’s first experimental birth cohort

The Big Lottery’s A Better Start programme is investing a total of £215 million between 2015-2025 across five areas in England with high levels of deprivation and vulnerable children.  These areas are: Bradford, Blackpool, Lambeth, Nottingham and Southend-on-Sea.  

The funding aims to provide interventions to pregnant women and children aged 0-3 to improve socio-emotional development, language and communication and nutrition and obesity.  As part of the Big Lottery’s Better Start Bradford programme, researchers from the Healthy Children Healthy Families theme of YH CLAHRC have established an Innovation Hub which will conduct monitoring and process evaluation for the Better Start Bradford interventions. The Innovation Hub also hosts the world’s first experimental birth cohort (Born in Bradford’s Better Start (BiBBS) cohort).  This new cohort will help to evaluate the effectiveness of the interventions that are implemented.  

The aim is to recruit 5,000 babies, their mothers and their mothers’ partners over the next 5 years, and so far over 600 women have joined the cohort. Questionnaires and measurements during pregnancy are conducted and linked with information on attendance to the Better Start Bradford interventions and routinely collected data (e.g. collected by health visitors, schools). 

The BiBBS cohort data will be used to understand the effects of participation in interventions on children’s health and development. To find out more, read the BiBBS cohort protocol paper, published in BMC public health. https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-016-3318-0