Veronika Christodoulides, CEO of Birth Forward Cyprus: "As an organisation which provides advocacy, support and education for families and professionals in regards to the various stages of planning, creating and growing a family in Cyprus, the first seed, the idea, of a joint educational platform for both pregnant couples/new parents as well as health professionals goes way back. I remember, we started discussing this prospect in Autumn 2015 within the Birth Forward community. At the time, this sounded like a far away idea.

We then looked into potential funding opportunities and identified the Erasmus Plus of the European Commission as a good match since they support such innovative adult education projects like we envisioned. As a new NGO, we were reluctant to apply as coordinator of such a big project so we focused our efforts on searching for potential partners with whom we could share this vision. It wasn’t long before we found the right people! I remember it was summer of 2016 when I attended an event organised by the School of Health Science at the Cyprus University of Technology in association with the Cyprus Breastfeeding Association. They were presenting their “BrEaST start in life” study which was the first study in Cyprus to depict the practices around breastfeeding and breastfeeding support for new mothers. I remember that day was really hot and I drove down from the cool mountains just for that presentation and I am so glad I did because I met similar-minded people, equally passionate about improving the birth culture and environment in Cyprus. This was a large interdisciplinary team of academics and clinicians, paediatricians, midwives and public health experts led by the School of Health Sciences at CUT and it was the perfect “match” with Birth Forward which also thrives on multidisciplinarity.

We then started conversations over the summer and over another project Birth Forward was looking into (which never happened) we came in contact with Best Beginnings. The result was explosive. This is a Registered Charity of the UK with a big and inspiring vision to inform and empower parents and give every child a good start in life. Best Beginnings have an impressive track of digital resources and solutions. One of them is the original and multi-award winning Baby Buddy UK app which is the loving “parent” of Baby Buddy Cyprus. The contact came at the right time when Best Beginnings were also exploring ways to form international strategic partnerships. With Cyprus being the “stepping stone” for the first international trip of Baby Buddy, we added academic and SME partners from Greece and Germany to the conversation to spread the learning experience further and the partnership was in place." 

Professor Nicos Middleton, Cyprus University of Technology: "I also remember that day Veronika is talking about very well. It was like one of those “lightbulb” moments that you know will lead to something rewarding and meaningful. As health researchers, we often wonder about the practical impact of our research studies, and of course we always analyse the implications of our findings for future research, clinical practice or health policy and so on and make relevant recommendations. We teach our students and advocate for evidence- based practice and policy, that is clinical practice and policy that is based on research evidence. That same year, however, at the European Public Health Conference, I had another “lightbulb” moment.

had attended a round-table debate on the role of advocacy in public health research. That’s when I realised that the reason us public health researchers are often not as successful as we would like in bridging the practice -research gap is because we are thinking in the context of research-based policy and not policy-oriented research. That is, we take research to be the starting point in the hope that this will inform practice, instead of taking the actual practice or policy or system change we are hoping to achieve as a starting point and hence produce the research that will promote and encourage the conversation about practice and policy changes. Both the “BrEaST start in life” project and even more so “Baby Buddy” are good examples of such policy-oriented research projects, and I am personally grateful to all the people - core and extended Baby Buddy family - with whom we shared this rewarding journey together. The idea for Baby Buddy took shape and form as a three-year Participatory Action Formative Research project, and we handed in the application in March 2017. 

Baby Buddy is a policy-oriented Action research project because it takes action in re-thinking our current practices in antenatal education and designing a “complimentary” model of care since the Baby Buddy platform functions as an educational resource for future parents as well as a valuable tool to support the educational role of health professionals. The various research activities included in the project were of a formative nature, meaning they aimed specifically at helping us shape the content, ensuring its relevance and suitability for parents in Cyprus. It is a participatory project as it employed through its various stages processes of co-creation with the health professional community (Midwives, Gynaecologists, and Paediatricians) and parents-to-be/new parents themselves."

Visit the Baby Buddy Forward website here.