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ConnectEpeople was a cohesive moderated online forum based within social media, namely Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. It was originally developed as part of the Horizon 2020 funded EUROlinkCAT project. The scoping review and rational for using a social media based e-forum.

E-forum structure

The aim of the platform was to provide support to families with congenital anomalies through maintaining the links between them, research and support organisations. Thirty-two English speaking parents from nine countries across Europe were recruited to ConnectEpeople to represent four CAs: Congenital Heart Disease, Down Syndrome, Spina Bifida and Cleft Lip and Palate.

These parents became Research Aware Parent (RAP) Group actively working in partnership with the researcher team: Professor Marlene Sinclair and Dr Julie McCullough. The first co-production activity was the development of an online survey. Following this RAPs worked with the researchers to review and rank responses based on the James Lind Alliance methods to develop Top Ten lists of research questions that were important to them and their children.

View the published survey findings and co-production research

As part of the ConnectEpeople project a number of webinars were held to allow congenital anomaly experts to share their knowledge and research and have a live discussion with parents and other stake holders.

View the ConnectEpeople videos 

Breastfeeding Research

MFIR has a long history of breastfeeding research with a particular focus on topics that relate to challenges women experience such as medication use while breastfeeding, motivation to breastfeed in different cultures including Taiwan, Jordan and Myanmar, and breastfeeding a child with a congenital anomaly. There are currently two PhD researchers investigating nipple pain and breastfeeding trauma.

Since 2017 MFIR in collaboration with the Doctoral Midwifery Research Society (DMRS) and the Public Health Agency have held the annual Spotlight on Breastfeeding Research Conference at the Jordanstown campus. Dame Professor Tina Lavender was the keynote speaker in 2019 and Professor Soo Downe will present the keynote at the 2020 event.

Conference links are available on the DMRS website and YouTube channel.

For further details about the 2020 Spotlight on Breastfeeding Research Conference please contact Professor Marlene Sinclair ( or Dr Julie McCullough (

The Northern Ireland Breastfeeding Strategy Implementation Steering Group (BSISG) chaired by Dr Nicola Armstrong Programme Manager, HSC R&D Division of the Public Health Agency, includes UU representation from Professor Marlene Sinclair and Dr Briege Lagan.

In 2016 UU received funding to develop the BSISG research repository and carry out a literature review on interventions designed to increase breastfeeding initiation (Sinclair et al 2018) in order to develop interventions for enhancing breastfeeding rates in NI and across the UK.

In 2019 MFIR/DMRS held the first ‘Breastfeeding Research Priorities: Have your say’ PPI event at the Ulster University. The follow up event (originally scheduled for March 2020) will allow further investigation and discussion with the PPI group with the aim of identifying a key research question and application for funding.