Alison Baum, CEO

Alison Baum photoThe CEO and Founder of Best Beginnings, Alison has used her leadership and executive production experience to pioneer the development of innovative resources including DVDs, art and mobile apps to support the emotional and physical transition to parenthood.

In 2007, Alison received the prestigious Sheila McKechnie "Campaigner of the Year" award for her work in creating the Breastfeeding Manifesto Coalition, uniting 40 organisations, including five Royal Colleges and UNICEF, to lobby Government to deliver on seven objectives designed to allow women to make fully informed choices about how to feed their babies. In March 2014 Alison was thrilled to be awarded CPHVA Campaigner of the Year and Woman of Democracy.

Before launching Best Beginnings, Alison set up an internet-based social enterprise called Express Yourself Mums, providing information and products for new mothers. Prior to that, she worked in the BBC Science department for almost ten years, producing and directing science and health documentaries including Horizon and played a key role in a BBC internal change programme.

Alison has an MA from Oxford University in Pure and Applied Biology and an MSc from UCL in Neuroscience. She is married with two children aged twelve and ten, both of whom were born with cleft palates and significant health problems. She comes from a family of doctors and her husband is a Professor of Paediatrics. 

Alison's paternal Grandpa walked over from Poland and had one year of education in his life. It was the nurturing home environment and the instilling of a love of learning that her Grandparents fostered that enabled Alison's father and his three brothers and sister to become highly successful healthcare professionals and academics. This background, and her understanding of the evidence of the benefits of early intervention, fuels Alison's passion for reducing inequalities in child health by supporting parents to maximise their children's development. Another motivator is the memory of her Uncle David, Prof David Baum, the first President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health - an extraodinary man who fought for the rights of the child in the UK and internationally. Best Beginnings was set up in memory of David.

Read Alison's blog and follow Alison on Twitter @alisonbaum

David Pope, Finance & Office Manager 

David joined Best Beginnings in December 2015 after a career in the British Army, where he reached the rank of Captain and was responsible for managing the finances and administration of an Infantry Battalion. In addition to being responsible for maintaining the budgets of the charity and providing financial advice to the CEO and project leads, David manages the office and facilities to ensure all staff receive suitable administrative support to carry out their roles effectively. David has been a keen sportsman throughout his life representing Great Britain at Bobsleigh and playing rugby at a high level, and now passes on his enthusiasm to his son, Daya.


Projects team

Vicky Carne, Professional and Policy Lead and Interim Small Wonders National Facilitator

Vicky is a practising midwife with 30 years’ experience in all areas of midwifery, including postnatal ward management; practice development (maternity, neonates and gynaecology) and the Statutory Supervision of Midwives. Formerly, Vicky was Head of Midwifery at MIDIRS (Midwives Information & Resource Service), where she was Project Lead for the MIDIRS Informed Choice series of evidence-based information leaflets, extending the resource from ten into 25 discrete pregnancy-related titles. She has collaborated with highly respected experts in their field – clinicians, researchers, academics and internationally-renowned authors. Her experience includes, coordinating MIDIRS conferences and Podcasts; writing evidence-based content for health professionals and consumers; content development for multi-media publication, and national and international project management and collaborative working.

Vicky has worked in the charitable sector for over 13 years and has been working for Best Beginnings since January 2013. During this time, she has contributed content and provided expert guidance and input to each of Best Beginnings’ projects. Vicky was thrilled to take up post as Best Beginnings’ Professional & Policy Lead in September 2014 and has also been supporting the Small Wonders Change Programme as Interim National Facilitator since July 2014.

Vicky has a BA (Hons) in Health Studies and an MSc in Public Health (Health Promotion). She lives in South Gloucestershire with her partner; her two teenage children, and the family’s four Welsh Pembroke Corgis!

Helen Daly, Baby Express Project Lead

Helen joined the Best Beginnings team in July 2013 as Project Coordinator responsible for supporting all key programmes of work. Having graduated with a BSc in Public Health and Health Promotion in 2013 she went on to work in Public Health in both the NHS and Local Authority in Luton, focusing on the early years and health protection. Helen is now the Project Lead for the update, refresh and piloting of Baby Express, an age-paced parenting magazine, which is part of Best Beginnings' Transition to Parenthood Programme. 

David King, Maternal Mental Health

Project Lead David worked in the NHS for twenty years in a variety of roles in Health Promotion, Public Health and Commissioning. Much of his early work focused on HIV prevention and sexual health promotion in North London. He developed a wide range of community based projects and services including a same-day HIV testing service and outreach programmes for gay men and African communities. In 2001 he won the Health Service Journal Management Award for his work on the ‘Awaredressers’ project, working in partnership with small African businesses to de-stigmatise HIV/AIDS. He has worked as a Trustee for MIND in Haringey and is currently a Trustee for The Mental Heath Support Association in Haringey. David has two children, Max and Esther.

Katherine Robinson Hodges, Apps Digital Lead

Katherine joined the charity in March 2014 to support the development of Best Beginnings’ phone apps. Her professional background is in educational publishing and she is excited to be working on innovative resources that provide young parents with information and support and help them to give their children the best possible start in life. Before joining Best Beginnings, Katherine worked at City & Guilds creating digital learning materials. She is a dual British and American citizen and has worked and studied in the United States. Katherine enjoys doing online courses in her spare time; she is currently learning computer programming.

Development team

Helen Hunter, Director of Development

Helen joined the team as our Business Development Manager in 2014, with the remit to further develop and promote Best Beginnings commissionable services. She has since taken up the role of Director of Development. Before having her three children Helen worked as a researcher in a management consultancy specialising in HR.  Whilst taking a career break she trained as a breastfeeding counsellor with the NCT and since qualifying nine years ago, she has worked extensively with breastfeeding families facilitating breastfeeding antenatal workshops and breastfeeding drop ins, supporting women on a one-one basis and working on the NCT infant feeding helpline. Helen has a passion for peer support and undertook additional training in order to train and supervise breastfeeding peer supporters in their local communities. She has delivered and project managed several peer support projects and continues to do so in her own time. Prior to joining the Best Beginnings team Helen spent three years at NCT head office, helping to develop and deliver commissioned services initially focusing on breastfeeding projects and then latterly working as the National Partnership Manager. Helen works between the office in London and her home office in the North Yorkshire Dales.

Esther Sharma, National Facilitator

Esther joined Best Beginnings in 2014 and works closely with the Director of Development on the strategic development and future direction of the charity.  Her team works on scoping, developing and facilitating the embedding of the charity's resources and paractice tools.  Esther qualified as a midwife from King's College London in 1999 and worked in a range of innovative clinical settings across London.  Subsequently, she went on to complete Masters in Public Health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and managed a number of Public Health initiatives.  Esther also lived in Afghanistan where she worked to support maternal health.  She is a member of the Royal College of Midwives, Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health and is a board member for Women and Children First (UK).  In her spare time, Esther is busy running after her toddler and occasionally gets to enjoy London's rich arts and culture.

Fiona Dry, North of England Regional Facilitator

Fiona is the North of England Regional Facilitator. Before joining the Best Beginnings team she worked as an Infant Feeding Coordinator for the Acute Midwifery services in County Durham and Darlington.

Fiona has worked as a Midwife in Hospital and Community settings and also worked as a Sure Start Midwife for nine years embedding Services in County Durham.

Fiona lives in rural Teesdale with her husband Steve and four children and enjoys running, participating in events whenever possible and being involved in a local Amateur Dramatics group,  as both an actor and choreographer of their annual pantomime.   

Joanna Pell, Project Coordinator

Jo joined Best Beginnings in September 2014 as a Project Coordinator, coordinating the Department of Health funded North of England Impact Study which will look at how Best Beginnings’ resources will support an increase in breastfeeding rates, as well as supporting the embedding of the charity’s resources into mainstream health services across the UK. She has a degree in International Relations and Cultural Studies. Before joining the team, Jo previously worked in the canine welfare industry in a similar role and had Board level responsibility for many disciplines including the fastest growing UK-wide canine sport.