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Dame Pauline Harris opens flagship birth cohort study clinic and receives honorary degree

Dame Pauline Harris visited Liverpool Women’s Hospital this week (Wednesday 12 July 2023) to be presented with an Honorary degree from the University of Liverpool and officially open the Children Growing up in Liverpool (C-GULL) Birth Cohort Study research clinic.

Dame Pauline was made Honorary Doctor of Laws in recognition of the immense contribution she has made to women’s health. She and Lord Harris of Peckham have supported the Wellbeing of Women charity for more than 30 years, and through them established the Harris-Wellbeing Preterm Birth Research Centre at the University of Liverpool and the Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust in 2015.

Her support has funded life-changing preterm birth research, support for pregnant women and families, and public education about preterm birth for eight years.

The first Harris Wellbeing of Women (then called Birthright) Centre was set up in 1983 at King’s College Hospital in London. After its success Lord Harris and Dame Pauline continued to support the setting up of further centres spreading northwards, feeling it would be beneficial to expand outside of the south of England and each tackling a different aspect of women’s health. In total there were six centres, the latest being the Harris-Wellbeing Liverpool Preterm Birth Centre.

The visit also marked the official opening of the C-GULL research clinic which sits within the Harris centre. Dame Pauline opened the clinic alongside Professor Dame Lesley Regan.

C-GULL is the first large scale birth cohort study in the Liverpool City Region and will track 10,000 first born babies and their families from early in pregnancy through childhood and beyond.

Researchers will collect information on their biological, physical, and mental health, as well as the home environment and more. This innovative study will use the latest data collection methods to give a comprehensive picture of the early life origins of health and wellbeing. This information will be used to inform policies and practices that promote the health and well-being of families in Liverpool and beyond.

C-GULL is a partnership between The University of Liverpool, The Wellcome Trust, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, Liverpool City Council, The Liverpool Women’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, and NIHR Clinical Research Network North West Coast.

Dame Pauline Harris said: “It’s a pleasure to be here in Liverpool today and I’m delighted to have been given this honorary award. I’m proud of all of our Centres, and this one in Liverpool is very important to me because I gave birth to preterm twins myself. I’m looking forward to touring the C-GULL clinic and meeting staff and patients.”

Professor Louise Kenny, Executive Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences and C-GULL Principal Investigator said: “Today we pay tribute to the remarkable impact that Dame Pauline Harris has had on women and child health, here in Liverpool and far beyond. Dame Pauline’s longstanding support for the Wellbeing of Women charity led to the establishment of the Harris Centre for Pre-term Birth Research, a partnership between the University of Liverpool and the Liverpool Women’s Hospital. Over the last nine years ground-breaking research and transformative initiatives from the Harris centre have advanced our understanding of the causes of adverse pregnancy outcomes.

“I am delighted that following the conferment of her Honorary degree, Dame Pauline officially opened the C-GULL research clinic at the Harris centre. The C-GULL study represents a remarkable opportunity to understand the early life origins of health and wellbeing, and I have no doubt that in the coming decade the work of C-GULL will positively impact the lives of families in Liverpool, nationally and globally. This collaboration between academic institutions, healthcare organisations and funders exemplifies the power of partnerships in driving meaningful change in healthcare and promoting the wellbeing of women and children for generations to come.”