Dr Laura Abbott from University of Hertfordshire named among Nation’s Lifesavers

16 May 2019

A researcher from the University of Hertfordshire has today been recognised for her exceptional contribution to keeping the nation healthy.

Dr Laura Abbott from the University’s School of Health and Social Work is one of the Nation’s Lifesavers – the top 100 individuals or groups based in universities whose work is saving lives and making a life-changing difference to our health and wellbeing.

They have been named for the first time today as part of Universities UK’s MadeAtUni campaign, which brings to life the impact of universities on everyday lives.

Dr Laura Abbott is a champion for improving maternity care for pregnant women in prison. She is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire where her research has highlighted significant risks to the safety and wellbeing of pregnant mothers and their babies in UK prisons, including women giving birth in cells without midwifery care.

As a result of her pioneering research, Laura helped to write the Birth Charter for Women in Prison in England and Wales, which provides guidance about the treatment of pregnant women in prison and has been referenced in the MoJ’s Women’s Policy Framework. Laura has also made clear recommendations to the Ministry of Justice, the prison inspectorate and to healthcare services to improve maternity provision for pregnant prisoners. In March 2019 she met with leaders at NHS England to agree steps to move further towards policy change and implementing mandated guidance. Laura talks internationally about her research to stakeholders and influencers and has also given evidence to the 2019 Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights.

The Nation’s Lifesavers are fighting diseases, helping new parents and children enjoy the best start in life, supporting older people and improving our mental health and wellbeing. The selection reveals the amazing use of technology, such as drones to fight malaria, a smart glove for communicating sign language and robots helping older people.

Universities from across the country were invited to nominate an individual or group who has made a significant contribution to the nation’s health and wellbeing. Over 100 universities from Plymouth to Dundee submitted a nomination.

Dr Laura Abbott said: “It is a fantastic honour to feature as one of the Nation’s Lifesavers for my work in campaigning for improvements in maternity care for pregnant women in prison. I’m grateful for the support I have received from the University and colleagues at Birth Companions. The MadeAtUni campaign is a great chance to celebrate the many ways universities are having a significant impact on our everyday lives.”

Naomi Delap, director of Birth Companions, commented: “I have known Laura since I came into post as Director of Birth Companions in 2014.  In 2016 Laura was instrumental in co-authoring the Birth Charter for Women in Prison in England and Wales; in brokering partnerships with RCM and UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative in support of the Birth Charter; and in bringing her passion, drive, contacts and talent for building relationships to aiding the dissemination of the Birth Charter.  Her PhD research has been influential in informing the recommendations in the Birth Charter, and in subsequent work we have done to highlight the conditions perinatal women in custody experience.  The Birth Charter has been extremely influential in informing national policy (it was cited heavily in Public Health England’s Gender Specific Standards to Improve Health and Wellbeing of Women in Prison in England and Wales March 2018) and will soon be adapted by a team at Central Queensland University for use in Australia.”

Professor Dame Janet Beer, President Universities UK, said: “When people think of lifesavers they tend to focus on the dedication and skill of our doctors, nurses, carers, and paramedics – many of whom are trained at universities. Every day, up and down the country, universities are also working on innovations to transform and save lives. Research taking place in universities is finding solutions to so many of the health and wellbeing issues we care about and the causes that matter.

“By proudly working in partnership with charities, the NHS and healthcare organisations, universities are responsible for some of our biggest health breakthroughs and in revolutionising the delivery of care. This campaign is a chance to bring to life the wonderful and often unexpected work going on every day in our universities and to celebrate some of the people working to make a life-changing difference to the nation.”

Research shows the public are proud of UK universities but have little understanding of the benefits they bring, with most not being aware that UK academics are behind many of the discoveries that save lives and keep us healthy. The MadeAtUni campaign gives the public an insight into some of this work and celebrates those who made it happen. More information on the campaign can be found on the dedicated website: www.madeatuni.org.uk


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