Women’s Health and Performance Associate Professor at St Mary’s University, Twickenham (SMU), Dr Nicola Brown, was recently invited to Westminster where she presented to the Fit and Healthy Childhood All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on her research surrounding the breast-related challenges facing girls in sport.
Nicola was invited to share her expertise with the APPG panel alongside three other speakers during a session held specifically to look at girls in sport. All the invited speakers are part of different organisations that have started initiatives to try and improve girls’ participation in sport.
Nicola is the co-developer of Treasure Your Chest, an initiative that educates schoolgirls on breast health through free evidence-based resources. Treasure Your Chest is a collaborative project between St Mary’s University, the Research Group in Breast Health at the University of Portsmouth, and the University of Chichester.
The initiative has conducted research involving over 1200 girls, finding that 46% consider their breasts a barrier to participating in sport. The research also found that over half had never worn a sports bra.
Having identified that there were clear gaps in knowledge and awareness surrounding breast health amongst schoolgirls, Treasure Your Chest developed a set of free breast education resources available to teachers, coaches, sport groups, and others wanting to foster a healthier and more informed environment for girls in sport.
Nicola and the team have spent years researching the concerns girls have about their breasts, allowing them to identify the most effective ways to deliver resources in a school setting, as well as develop content that best resonates with the girls. These resources include the importance of breast support, proper bra fit, and the different types of sports bras.
Treasure Your Chest’s resources have been downloaded by over 200 schools so far, with an estimated reach of more than 20,000 girls. The team has also conducted an evaluation of its resources, finding that the girls show improved knowledge, enhanced confidence, increased use of sports bras and regular checking of bra fit.
Speaking on Treasure Your Chest, Nicola Brown said, “Beyond the basic biological aspects of puberty, there is very little education for girls about breast development and how to navigate these changes to their body. Breast development is the first visible sign of puberty that other people can see, so it can be a challenging time for some girls.
“Treasure Your Chest is all about empowering girls to make informed choices that can alleviate, if not eliminate, some of the barriers preventing them from participating in sport. The initiative is really about giving every girl the opportunity to learn about her body and how best to support it.”
More information on Treasure Your Chest and access to the free resources can be found at www.treasureyourchest.org