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Page last updated at 15:23 GMT, Monday, 8 March 2010
Born in Bradford project aims for 14,000 babies target
Louise and baby Sidra
Baby Sidra and mum Louise are among those taking part in Born in Bradford

A unique project aimed at following the lives and wellbeing of thousands of Bradford-born babies is proving a major hit with the city's mums and dads.

Born in Bradford (BiB) originally aimed to track the health of 10,000 babies for a period of twenty years.

But it's proving so popular that the scheme is now being extended, with around 14,000 now set to take part.

Ann Barratt from BiB says: "There's been that ripple around the city. People are really talking about it."

Baby Ambar
At 6lbs 7oz, Ambar was Born in Bradford's 10,000th bouncing baby

Ann, who is Born in Bradford's family liaison officer, is very proud of what the scheme has achieved so far - and rightly so. She says while the numbers involved are huge, the idea behind it is very simple.

She explains: "It's all about health in Bradford and the health problems that already exist here.

"Born in Bradford is a way of looking at exactly what's going on for the people in this city in terms of their health. It's a matter of seeing how many children have asthma and eczema, how many of the children involved are getting diabetes and so on.

"We capture all this information and then the idea is that we look at why this is happening and how we can prevent it. It's really about improving health in the city."

Ann explains that Born in Bradford is actually a unique and groundbreaking approach to gauging the future health needs of an entire city: "I think this is the biggest study that's going on in the country at the moment.

"This is a massive amount of the city's population. Our birth rate is about 6000 children a year and we're capturing 80 to 85 per cent of children born in Bradford in three years."

Born in Bradford Teddy Bear's Picnic
A 'Teddy Bear's Picnic' in 2009 brought many BiB-ers together

When BiB first started in 2007, the aim was to track the lives of 10,000 Bradford babies but, amazingly, that underestimated the popularity of the scheme. Ann says: "Our 10,000th baby was born a few weeks ago. Because recruitment's been going so well we decided we'd carry on until the end of this year.

"By the end of 2010 we should have about 13,500 to 14,000 babies in the project. We're delighted we've reached our target. It's definitely an achievement."

Taking part in Born in Bradford is pretty simple. Mums are 'recruited' in the maternity unit and those that are happy to take part are asked to fill out a questionnaire about their lifestyle. That's just the start, of course, and many dads are also happy get involved.

Ann Barratt says the key to BiB's success has been word of mouth: "One of the things that we've found is that there's a kind of buzz, a ripple effect. Somebody says to their friend that they filled in the questionnaire and it was good fun."

And even though twenty years of raw data about the health of Bradford's children is at the centre of the project, Ann says that fun is also a vital part of the Born in Bradford ethos.

There's real international interest in what's going on here.
Ann Barrett, Born in Bradford

She says: "One of the really nice things is that we've got an artist-in-residence, Ian Beesley, and we're trying to set up some really long-term photographic projects.

"For instance, we asked all the parents of babies born on New Year's Day in 2007 if they would come and be photographed and I think nine of them came along. Then we invited them back this year and we hope to do that annually.

"Last year we had 66 pairs of twins so we invited them to come and be photographed and we're doing that again at the moment. We've got 107 sets of twins and three sets of triplets in the project.

"These photoshoots are just great - meeting these families and the children. We've got lovely portraits and it's lovely for the families."

The ambitious nature of Born in Bradford has not gone unnoticed either, with a lot of interest being shown nationally and internationally in the information being gathered by the team.

Blood samples collected from the mums taking part in BiB are, for instance, attracting a lot of attention. Ann says: "They all go into a big 'biobank' and there's huge international interest in that because it's unique in the world.

Ann Barratt
Ann Barratt believes Born in Bradford is helping to put the city on the map

"In the future we're going to have a conference where researchers from around the world can say what they would like to do with the blood and, because it's a very precious and limited resource, we'd like to work out what would be the best things to do.

"There's real international interest in what's going on here."

With the London School of Tropical Health and Hygiene and the universities of Bristol, Leeds, York and Edinburgh also involved with Born in Bradford, Anne believes the project is putting the city firmly on the map.

She says: "This has to be a good thing for Bradford because we hope there will be some good outcomes from it.

"Although it's based on statistics about poor health, we hope that we can find out good ways of intervening early enough to prevent these things.

"This is a good thing for our city."


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