Alison McFadden

+44 (0)1382 388 735
Professor of Mother and Infant Public Health


Alison is Professor of Mother and Infant Public Health and Director of the Mother and Infant Research Unit. Alison qualified as a midwife in 1981 and has worked in clinical midwifery in Bristol and Middlesbrough in England. She spent three years in Malawi working as a midwife teacher and clinical midwife.

Qualifying as a midwifery tutor in 1989, she was awarded the Robert Peer’s Prize for Adult Education by the University of Nottingham, and spent 17 years lecturing in midwifery and women’s health at the University of Teesside. She was awarded a Masters in Applied Educational Studies by the University of York in 1993. 

In 2005 she joined the Mother and Infant Research Unit at the University of York and gained a NIHR Researcher Development Award to undertake a PhD which was completed in 2009 at the University of York. Her doctoral research examined the breastfeeding support needs and experiences of women of Bangladeshi origin living in the UK. Alison joined the University of Dundee as a research fellow in January 2013.

Wider professional activities

Member of Engagement Committee for the UK Becoming Breastfeeding Friendly project (led by Yale University) 2017-8

Member of Scientific Committee for the International Conference on Stillbirth, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and Baby Survival, Glasgow, June 2018

Member of Advisory Group for the UK World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative 2016

Co-lead (with Professor Kennedy from Yale University) International Midwifery Research Priorities Steering Group 2016 - present

Editorial Board Member ‘Birth: Issues in Perinatal Care’ March 2017 – present

Member of Fife NHS Health Inequalities Gypsy and Traveller Steering Group 2014 - present

Member of Executive Group Lancet Series in Midwifery

Expert Panel Member for WHO Guideline Development Group – Nutrition Actions 2016-2018

Temporary Advisor for WHO South East Asia Regional Office on Strengthening Midwifery in South East Asia, August 2015

NICE Expert Panel Member; Maternal and Child Nutrition (PH11)

NICE Member, Healthy Start Expert Reference Group 2014-2015

International Confederation of Midwives Research Advisory Network Member

Peer reviewer for many journals including: BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, BMC Public Health, Health Expectations, International Journal for Equity in Health, International Journal of Nursing Studies, Journal of Human Lactation, Maternal and Child Nutrition, Midwifery, Public Health Nutrition

Peer reviewer for NIHR Research for Patient Benefit Programme, NIHR Programme Grants for Applied Research, Wellbeing of Women RCM Research Training Fellowships, Health Research Board, Ireland, Tenovus Cancer Care 


Alison’s research focusses on improving the health and health care experiences of childbearing women, babies and families and reducing health inequities. She has particular interests in global infant feeding policy and evidence-based support to enable women to breastfeed, in improving the quality of midwifery care nationally and internationally; and in improving health care for women, babies and families from marginalised/socially excluded groups.

Her methodological expertise is in qualitative methods, evidence synthesis, multi-method studies, implementation of evidence into practice and including participants in research who are often excluded. 

Alison is lead author of the flagship Cochrane review ‘Support for healthy breastfeeding mothers with healthy term babies’ and is an Expert Panel Member for the WHO Guideline Development Group – Nutrition Actions 2016-2018. Alison is a co-author on the influential Lancet Series on Midwifery published in 2014.

Current funding

Principal Investigator

Development and feasibility study of an evidence-informed manualised intervention to compare CUe-Based versus Scheduled feeding for preterm infants transitioning from tube to oral feeding in neonatal units (CUBS), funded by NIHR Health Technology Assessment Programme (£343,759), 2018 –2020.

Systematic review of counselling interventions to support women to initiate and continue breastfeeding, funded by WHO (£49,889), 2018.

Evaluating a new employer-led model of supervision for midwives: PhD studentship, funded by Chief Scientist’s Office, Scotland (£72,000), 2017-2020.

Enhancing Gypsy/Travellers’ trust: using maternity and early years’ health services and dental health services as exemplars of mainstream service provision, funded by Department of Health Policy Research Programme (£409,082), 2015-2018.


The barriers to and facilitators of the provision of midwifery services: a systematic literature review of national (India), regional (South East Asia) and global literature, funded by WHO India Office (£31,437), 2018 – 2019.

Efficient evidence reviews on midwifery education, funded by UK Nursing and Midwifery Council (£36,532) 2017- 2018.

Supporting the ‘golden hour’ for mother and infant skin-to-skin contact at elective caesarean sections, funded by NHS Tayside Academic Health Science Partnership (£22,362) 2017– 2019.


Member of Management Group for the Quality Maternal and Newborn Care (QMNC) Research Alliance 2018 – present

Module team member:  Global Perspectives in Maternal and Infant Health

Teaching research methods to PhD students

Supervision of Master’s and PhD students



Beek K, McFadden A, Dawson A. (2019). The role and scope of practice of midwives in humanitarian settings: A systematic review and content analysis. Human Resources for Health 17:5.


Kennedy HP, Cheyney M, Dahlen H, Downe S, Foureur M, Homer CSE, Jefford E, McFadden A, Michel-Schuldt M, Sandall J, Soltani H, Speciale AM, Stevens J, Vedam S, Renfrew MJ (2018) Asking different questions: a call to action for research to improve the quality of care for every woman, every child. Birth 1-10, DOI: 10.1111/birt.12361.

Kennedy HP, Cheyney M, Dahlen HG, Downe S, Foureur MJ, Homer CSE, Jefford A, McFadden A, Michel-Schuldt M, Sandall J, Soltani H, Speciale AM, Sevens J, Vedam S, Renfrew MJ. (2018). Asking different questions: A call to action for research to improve the quality of care for every woman, every child. Women and Birth 31(4): 242-243.

Symon A, McFadden A, White M, Fraser K, Cummins A. (2018). Adapting the Quality Maternal and Newborn Care (QMNC) Framework to evaluate models of antenatal care: A pilot study. PLOS ONE 13(8): e0200640

McFadden A, Siebelt L, Gavine A, Atkin K, Bell K, Innes N, Jones H, Jackson C, Haggi H, and MacGillivray S (2018). "Gypsy, Roma and Traveller access to and engagement with health services: a systematic review." European Journal of Public Health 28(1): 74-81.


Siebelt, L, Jackson C, McFadden A, Dyson L, Atkin K (2017) Use of UK health services by Gypsies, Roma, and Travellers: triangulation of two mixed methods studies. The Lancet 390: S81.

McFadden A, Gavine A, Renfrew MJ, Wade A, Buchanan P, Taylor JL, Veitch E, Rennie AM, Crowther SA, MacGillivray S. Support for healthy breastfeeding mothers with healthy term babies. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews February 2017

Gavine A, MacGillivray S, Renfrew MJ, Siebelt L, Haggi H, McFadden A. (2017) Education and training of healthcare staff in the knowledge, attitudes and skills needed to work effectively with breastfeeding women: a systematic reviewInternational Breastfeeding Journal, 12(1): 6.

Symon A, Pringle J, Downe S, Hundley, V, Lee E, Lynn F, McFadden A, McNeill J, Renfrew MJ, Ross-Davie M, van Teijlingen E, Whitford, H, Alderdice F (2017)  Antenatal care trial interventions: a systematic scoping review and taxonomy development of care models BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 17: 8.


McFadden A, Atkin K, Bell K, Innes N, Jackson C, Jones H, MacGillivray S, Siebelt L. (2016). Community engagement to enhance trust between Gypsy/Travellers, and maternity, early years’ and child dental health services: protocol for a multi-method exploratory study. International Journal for Equity in Health 15(1): 183.

Balogun OO, O'Sullivan EJ, McFadden A, Ota E, Gavine A, Garner CD, Renfrew M, MacGillivray S. Interventions for promoting the initiation of breastfeeding. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2016, Issue 11. Art. No.: CD001688. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001688.pub3

Kennedy H, Yoshida  S, Costello A, Declercq E, Dias M, Duff E, Gherissi A, Kaufman K, McConville F, McFadden A, Michel-Schuldt M, Moyo NT, Schuiling K, Speciale AM, Renfrew MJ. (2016) Asking different questions: research priorities to improve the quality of care for every woman, every child. Lancet Global Health

Symon A, Pringle J, Cheyne H, Downe S, Hundley V, Lee E, Lynn F, McFadden A, McNeill J, Renfrew MJ, Ross-Davie M, van Teijlingen E, Whitford H, Alderdice F. (2016) Midwifery-led antenatal care models: mapping a systematic review to an evidence-based quality framework to identify key components and characteristics of care. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 16, 1-15.

McFadden A, Mason F, Baker J, Begin F, Dykes F, Grummer-Strawn L, Kenney-Muir N, Whitford H, Zehner E, Renfrew MJ. (2016) Spotlight on infant formula: coordinated global action needed. The Lancet387(10017), 413-415.


McFadden A, Muir N, Mason F, Whitford H, Renfrew MJ. (2015) How do global organisations work best to influence political commitment at country level to protect and promote breastfeeding and support women to breastfeed? Maternal and Child Nutrition, 11(S2), 1-129.

Renfrew MJ, McFadden A, Bastos MH, Campbell J, Channon AA, Cheung NF et al. Midwifery and quality care: findings from a new evidence-informed framework for maternal and newborn care. Obstetrical & Gynecological Survey. 2015 Jan; 70(1):15-17. Available from:  10.1097/01.ogx.0000460706.27837.c4

McFadden A, Green JM, McLeish J, McCormick F, Williams V, Renfrew MJ. (2015) Healthy Start vitamins—a missed opportunity: findings of a multi-method study. BMJ Open; 5(1).


Renfrew MJ, McFadden A, Bastos MH, Campbell J, Channon AA, Cheung NF, Delage Silva DRA, Downe S, Kennedy HP, Malata A, McCormick F, Wick L, Declercq E. (2014) Midwifery and quality care: findings from a new evidence informed framework for maternal and newborn care. The Lancet 384(9948) 1129-1145.

ten Hoope-Bender P, de Bernis L  Campbell Downe S, Fauveau V, Fogstad H, Homer CS, Kennedy HP, Matthews Z, McFadden A, Renfrew MJ, Van Lerberghe W . (2014) Improving maternal and newborn health through midwifery. Lancet 384(9949) 1226-1235.

McFadden A, Green JM, Williams V, McLeish J, McCormick F, Fox-Rushby J, Renfrew MJ. (2014) Can food vouchers improve nutrition and reduce health inequalities in low-income mothers and young children: a multi-method evaluation of the experiences of beneficiaries and practitioners of the Healthy Start programme in England? BMC Public Health 14:148

McFadden A, Atkin K, Renfrew, M (2014) The impact of transnational migration on intergenerational transmission of knowledge and practice related to breastfeeding. Midwifery 30(4) 439-446


McFadden A, Renfrew MJ, Atkin K (2013) Does cultural context make a difference to women’s experiences of maternity care?  A qualitative study comparing the perspectives of breastfeeding women of Bangladeshi origin and health practitioners. Health Expectations 2013 Dec;16(4):e124-e135.


McFadden A, Renfrew MJ, Atkin A (2012) Using qualitative research findings to analyse how breastfeeding public health recommendations can be tailored to meet the needs of women of Bangladeshi origin living in England. Journal of Research in Nursing 17(2) p159-178  


Dyson L, Renfrew MJ, McFadden A, McCormick F, Herbert G, Thomas J (2010) Policy and public health recommendations to promote the initiation and duration of breast-feeding in developed country settings. Public Health Nutrition 13, 137-144


Renfrew MJ, Dyson L, Herbert G, McFadden A, McCormick F, Thomas J, Spiby H (2008) Developing evidence-based recommendations in public health --incorporating the views of practitioners, service users and user representatives. Health Expectations 11: 3-15.

Renfrew MJ, McLoughlin M, McFadden A (2008) Cleaning and sterilisation of infant feeding equipment: a systematic review. Public Health Nutrition; 11, 1188-1199


McFadden A, Toole G (2006) Exploring women’s views of breastfeeding: a focus group study within an area with high levels of socio-economic deprivation. Maternal and Child Nutrition 2, 156-168

McFadden A, Renfrew MJ, Dykes F, Burt S (2006) Assessing learning needs for breastfeeding: Setting the scene. Maternal and Child Nutrition 2, 196 - 203.

Abbott S, Renfrew MJ, McFadden A (2006) ‘Informal’ learning to support breastfeeding: mapping local problems and opportunities. Maternal and Child Nutrition 2, 232 - 238.

Renfrew MJ, McFadden A, Dykes F, Wallace L, Abbott S, Burt S, Kosmala-Anderson J (2006) Addressing the learning deficit in breastfeeding: strategies for change. Maternal and Child Nutrition 2, 239 - 244.

Renfrew MJ, Herbert G, Wallace L, Spiby H, McFadden A (2006) Developing practice in breastfeeding. Maternal and Child Nutrition 2, 245 - 261.