Premature Babies at the Heart of Charity Launch | Action Medical Research

Premature Babies at the Heart of Charity Launch

20 December 2001

Action Research celebrates 50 years of touching lives through medical research in Belfast What do premature babies, Paddington Bear and Belfast celebrities have in common? They all played a special part in a leading charity’s anniversary launch today (December 20th) at the Royal Maternity Hospital in Belfast. Action Research, a national medical research charity, was celebrating a milestone in its successful history - 50 years of touching lives through medical research. UTV star and Action Research Anniversary Appeal Patron, Pamela Ballantine, said: ‘Action Research has been funding projects at the cutting edge of science ever since it was founded in 1952, and Belfast has a special place in its history books. ‘The charity also has a special place in my heart. It’s determination, diverse approach, endeavour to touch lives, and sense of fun is admirable.’ Pamela was joined by other celebrities including household name Lisa Riley, famed for her Emmerdale and You’ve Been Framed roles, and Northern Ireland’s very own panto queen May McFettridge, (who are both starring at The Grand Opera House’s pantomime, Aladdin). The Lord Mayor of Belfast Councillor Jim Rodgers, also added his support. The Lord Mayor said: ‘Action Research has made a real commitment to the medical research in Belfast which has helped to ensure the city is on the map in the scientific community. ‘It has also launched some wonderful fundraising events in the area, which has demanded an abundance of enthusiasm, originality and hard work. I wish it all the best for its special anniversary.’ A big slice of Action Research’s work focuses on pregnancy complications, babies and children, including for example pre-eclampsia, premature birth, meningitis, asthma and bronchiolitis. Professor Henry Halliday is currently leading a research study at the Regional Neonatal Unit at the Royal Maternity Hospital, and made a special presentation about his work at the launch. Action Research invested more than £100,000 to the two-and-a-half year project, which is trying to shed some light on the longterm effect of steroids in premature babies suffering from chronic lung disease (CLD). Professor Halliday is investigating the longterm outcomes of 419 infants who were born prematurely and treated with steroids. Studies have shown that steroid treatment can improve the lungs of such tiny patients, and allow them to be taken off respirators and go home earlier. But recently, however, there have been concerns about the side effects of using steroids – particularly that this might increase the risk of cerebral palsy. ‘The results will help paediatricians and parents decide the balance of benefits versus risks of this treatment’, Professor Halliday said. Paddington Bear is Action Research’s loveable mascot and during the launch he escorted the celebrities to the special care baby unit, where he spread some festive spirit by delivering mini Paddingtons to the many poorly and recovering babies, some of them very premature. Finally, Pamela Ballantine also helped unveil a washing line of special baby T-shirts, which are going online for auction today. The T-shirts have been kindly designed and customised by a host of high-profile mums, dads and grandparents, including Tony Blair, Lorraine Kelly, Phil Collins, Carol Smillie, Zoe Ball and Norman Cook. Simon Moore, chief executive of Action Research said: ‘The New Year is always a time for new beginnings and hope for the future. It would be wonderful if people could make a New Year’s resolution to help give babies the best start in life, by bidding for their favourite T-shirt.’

Notes for Editors: Belfast-based researchers funded by the charity played an important role in the development of the UK’s first polio vaccine. Since then Action Research has funded many projects in the capital, including studies focusing on premature birth, incontinence, hip replacement. One promising study is looking at the effect of drug treatment in children and will lead to evidence-based guidelines, and potentially impact current clinical practice. Over the last 20 years the charity has invested more than £780,000 to projects based in the city. For more media information please contact Nicole Duckworth in the Action Research press office on 01403 210406, or email:

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