International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate women around the world and their achievements. It’s also a day to highlight important issues facing women, such as health disparities and access to care. We wanted to take this opportunity to celebrate the achievements of our Co-founder & Chief Executive Jane Plumb MBE.
In 1996, Jane Plumb’s life changed forever when her son Theo died from group B Strep infection just 17 hours after he was born. She and her husband Robert had never heard of group B Strep before this, and later learned that it is a common bacterium that can be found in the vagina or rectum of up to 1 in 4 pregnant women. While most babies born to women who carry group B Strep are healthy, some babies can become infected around birth, which can lead to serious complications such as meningitis, sepsis, or pneumonia.
After her devastating loss, Jane was determined to prevent other families from going through the same thing. She and Robert co-founded the charity Group B Strep Support in 1996 with the goal of stopping group B Strep infections in babies. The charity works to improve awareness of group B Strep, improve prevention policies, support families affected by group B Strep, and promote more research into group B Strep.
Thanks to Jane Plumb’s tireless efforts, there has been significant progress in group B Strep awareness and research in the UK. Awareness of group B Strep has risen from c. 10% in 2006 to c. 80% in 2021, a huge clinical trial is currently looking into whether routinely testing pregnant women for GBS is better than the UK’s current strategy, and a GBS vaccine is likely only 5-10 years away.
However, there is still work to be done. Routine testing for group B Strep in pregnancy is not standard practice in the UK, which means many parents only hear about group B Strep once their child is seriously ill. Group B Strep Support continues to advocate for universal screening, as well as funding for research into the condition.
Jane’s work has been recognised by many others in the field – she was recently appointed Women’s Voices Lead of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, was a member of the Department of Health’s priority-setting workshops for group B Strep research in 2015/6, and has sat on several National Institute of Health & Care Excellence guideline development committees. Jane has been and is a co-applicant on many group B Strep research projects, including the GBS3 trial, where she co-leads the Patient & Public Involvement work. Jane was awarded an MBE in 2012 for services to child health, a Fellowship of the RSA in 2020 and a Fellowship Honoris Causa of the Royal College & Obstetricians in 2021.
She was invited to attend a meeting to share her views on the government’s Women’s Health Strategy, in her role as Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists’ Women’s Voices Lead. The meeting was chaired by Health Minister Maria Caulfield and included other amazing women like Professor Dame Lesley Regan, Women’s Health Ambassador for England, Kate Lancaster, CEO of RCOG, and Dr Nighat Arif, GP on BBC Breakfast and ITV This Morning (pictured above).
Jane’s legacy is one of hope and determination. She turned a devastating loss into a movement for change, and her work has undoubtedly saved countless lives.
On this International Women’s Day, we celebrate Jane and all the amazing women who are working to stop group B Strep infection in babies.