The BaBi Network – Building Research Capacity


by Sam Debbage & Kate Robinson

Sam Debbage, Research Capacity Building Lead for the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration  Yorkshire and Humber (ARC YH) explains how The Born and Bred In (BaBi) Network has increased research capacity in a number of Trusts over the last year, and what this means for Yorkshire and Humber families. 

The BaBi Network is part of the world-leading Born in Bradford research programme. It started recruiting in Bradford in 2019 under the local name of BiB4All, and was joined by Leeds, Wakefield, Doncaster and East London in 2022, to create the BaBi Network. 

The BaBi Network is an important research initiative which aims to find out what influences the health and wellbeing of families. Supported by the Yorkshire and Humber ARC, it is a network of local birth cohort studies that work together to link existing data across health, education, and social care to create a picture of families’ lives over time; this will help to shape local services, creating a healthier environment for families to enjoy.

Despite being a Public Health study, BaBi is run by Reproductive Health and Childbirth (RH&C) research teams as the recruitment takes place antenatally. Consent is taken by clinical midwives as part of routine antenatal care, who have all been trained by the Research Midwives in the Trust. 

Before BaBi, a number of Trusts in Yorkshire and Humber had little or no RH&C Research, and no Research Midwives. However, keen to increase this speciality in the region, the NIHR Yorkshire and Humber CRN saw the opportunity to invest in BaBi by funding a BaBi Research Midwife in Doncaster, Wakefield and Hull via the ‘Unblocking the Blocks’ fund, which would in turn, increase RH&C activity for the region. 

In the last year, both Doncaster and Wakefield have not only successfully set up and started recruiting to BaBi, both exceeding yearly targets, but have also set up and begun recruiting to other national RH&C studies, including GBS3, Giant Panda, Stoppit3, OASI2, Big Baby and Rainbow. 

This increase in capacity for these studies is so important, as it gives more women access to high quality research. Evidence shows clinically research active hospitals have better patient care outcomes and patients admitted to more research‐active hospitals have more confidence in staff and are better informed about their condition and medication.

In Women’s Health this is no different, a review of over 20,000 women who took part in women’s health studies found that they had 25% better odds of improved outcomes; this benefit increased to 38% in higher quality studies and to 43% in those where the intervention was not available to non participants (Nijjar SK et al BJOG 124: 863-871,2017). 

Thanks to these sites, the latest CRN Yorkshire and Humber HLO report for Reproductive Health and Childbirth places Yorkshire and Humber 5th in the country for recruitment to RH&C studies, and top in the country for recruitment to large interventional studies. As BaBi accruals are counted towards the Public Health speciality, they do not show on this report, however, when BaBi accruals are added on to the sites figures, Yorkshire and Humber becomes the best performing region overall, when only this time last year the region was in the bottom third of the table in 13th place.

This achievement is down to the hard work of all the Research Midwives, Nurses and support staff who work in RH&C teams across our region, and thanks to BaBi, there are now more research midwives delivering high quality studies to women than ever before. With plans for BaBi to open in Hull this year, and a number of other sites not only in Yorkshire and Humber but across England, BaBi is helping to increase research capacity in all regions giving more women and their families’ access to new treatments and improved care and outcomes. 

The BaBi Network is a group of local birth cohort studies that work together to link routine data with the aim to improve the health and wellbeing of families through research. The BaBi network is part of the Born in Bradford family and is supported by the National Institute for Health Research ARC Yorkshire and Humber (NIHR ARC YH). To find out more please visit:

The BaBi network is only possible thanks to the generosity of women and babies who joined the BaBi family and the enthusiasm and dedication of the midwives who invited them.  We are grateful to all the women, babies, health professionals and researchers who make BaBi happen.

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