Heather Trickey obituary

Other lives: Policy and research manager at NCT who became a leading expert on infant feeding

My wife, Heather Trickey, who has died of cancer aged 50, was an academic, charity worker, Quaker and poet who worked with energy and enthusiasm to find common ground in the fields of women’s reproductive health and women’s rights.

Heather was born in Matlock, Derbyshire, to Diana (nee Barron), a teacher, and Adrian Trickey, a local government accountant, the family moving to Cardiff when she was four. She read geography at Bristol University, graduating in 1992, and followed this with a master’s in epidemiology from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

She worked at Health Promotion Wales before moving to the Centre for Research in Social Policy, in Loughborough, where she co-edited an international comparative study of workfare policies, An Offer You Can’t Refuse (2001), which has been used as a university set text.

Heather moved to London and joined the civil service, becoming the first ever social researcher in the Inland Revenue, and then in the Neighbourhood Renewal Unit.

She left in 2003 to become a policy and research manager at NCT, the UK’s largest parents’ charity, and became a leading expert on infant feeding policy, advocating passionately for an approach that balanced women’s rights and individual choice with public health evidence.

Heather and I met in 1999 and we moved in 2006 to Penarth, south Wales, Heather juggling our family of four children with her voluntary work as an NCT breastfeeding counsellor. She campaigned for better infant feeding conditions and was a member of several government advisory panels.

In 2012 she joined the Centre for Development, Evaluation, Complexity and Implementation in Public Health Improvement, at Cardiff University, to undertake her PhD, researching the socioeconomic and systemic barriers to breastfeeding. Heather was awarded her doctorate in 2020.

Elected a trustee of NCT in 2016, Heather worked with incisive strategic vision and built consensus wherever possible. With Clare Murphy, of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), she set up the Wrisk project, to promote understanding and improve the communication of risk relating to pregnancy, bringing together Cardiff University, BPAS and NCT. Without Heather’s efforts to find common ground between organisations with different perspectives, this valuable work would not have been possible.

In March 2021, the NCT and BPAS established an essay competition to encourage new writing, reflecting Heather’s contribution and commitment to women’s reproductive health and women’s rights. A panel of judges is currently shortlisting entries for the first Heather Trickey essay prize.

Heather attended Quaker meetings all her adult life and a central tenet of Quaker faith, that there is good in everyone, was a guiding principle in her work and life.

She also loved writing poetry. Her first and only book of poems, Sorry About the Mess, was published in 2020. It is a beautiful, bittersweet collection, put together during the pandemic after her cancer diagnosis.

Heather is survived by me, our four children, Silva, James, Arthur and Nancy, her brothers, Laurence and David, and her father, Adrian.

Simon Brindle

The GuardianTramp

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