After an early career as a health visitor, Susan moved to commissioning, and on to more senior leadership/executive nursing roles in London.  She has a comprehensive understanding of healthcare systems, both as a commissioner and provider across both acute and community health services. Susan has an MSc in Public Health (Health Services Management) awarded by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Susan also has a breadth of experience in the charity sector and is currently a Non-Executive Director and Chair of a Housing Association.

“I understand that health visiting as a profession and health visitors as individuals need to grow and develop, and articulate the value of what health visiting can achieve to benefit the public health of communities, families, and individual children and to contribute to addressing inequalities at an early stage.

“I am delighted to be taking on the role of chair at this important juncture for health visiting and the iHV.  I am looking forward to working with the board, building on their past work and looking ahead to deliver a strategy that truly impacts on future public health for babies, children and families.”

Professor Dame Sarah Cowley DBE retired in spring 2012 after a career that started in nursing in 1964, but has focused on health visiting since 1980.

After practising as a health visitor and practice teacher in Eastbourne for ten years, Dame Sarah completed her doctoral studies before joining the academic staff at King’s College London in 1992. There, she led a dual qualification health visiting/district nursing programme for five years before being appointed as Professor of Community Practice Development, after which she concentrated on Masters and doctoral level education and research. Her needs assessment research is recognised internationally, and she has advised on studies in Brazil, Australia, Japan, Ireland and New Zealand. Research about the distribution of health visiting services in relation to indicators of deprivation led to a worked-through funding model to guide commissioning and strategic planning, which has been widely used for workforce planning.

Dame Sarah is a patron for DorPIP (Dorset Parent-Infant Partnership) and MECSH (Maternal and Early Childhood Sustained Home Visiting programme); and a trustee for the charity Foundation Years Information and Research. She has been adjunct Professor, University of Technology Sydney, Visiting Professor University of Sao Paulo, a member of the National Institute for Health Research, a past Chair of the Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association (CPHVA), Fellow and former vice-chair of the Queen’s Nursing Institute, Professorial Fellow of the Royal Society of Public Health, and Fellow of the Irish Institute of Community Health Nursing. She was awarded the King’s College London Supervisory Excellence Award in 2008, having supervised more than 20 doctoral students to completion. In 2012, she was awarded a lifetime achievement award by the CPHVA and was created Dame Commander of the British Empire (DBE) for services to health visiting in the New Year’s Honours list 2013.

Dame Sarah has served on various editorial boards and has published widely, mainly to reflect her most important research interests in the field of health visiting, particularly child and family public health. She co-authored (with Marion Frost) a revision of the ‘The Principles of Health Visiting: Opening the door to public health’ in 2006. Her final programme of research, completed in 2013 with Professor Jill Maben at King’s College London, identified the key concepts embedded in health visitors’ ‘orientation to practice.’ This provided a framework for the third edition of her edited book (with Dr Karen Whittaker), ‘Community Public Health in Policy and Practice: a Sourcebook,’ published in 2020.


Cheryll worked as a health visitor on the South Coast of England for almost 20 years before moving to national roles. She has a background in research, with a specific interest in infant, perinatal and family mental health. Working at a national level since 1998, she has sat on many significant research, policy and professional committees, including for the Government, NICE and WAVE Trust where she was a co-author of Conception to Two and the All Party Parliamentary Group for Early Years where she contributed to the 1001 Critical Days manifesto. Cheryll was previously research and practice development lead and Lead Professional Officer at the CPHVA. There, she led the campaign against disinvestment in health visiting, before moving to the Department of Health to help rebuild the profession.

In 2012, Cheryll co-founded the Institute of Health Visiting to strengthen the quality and consistency of health visiting services across the UK. Alongside she is a professional adviser to UNICEF, supporting their work to introduce and strengthen a proxy health visiting model in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, a member of the advisory group for the lottery funded Better Start Blackpool, and was on the editorial group producing ‘Health for All Children 5’.

Cheryll is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health and was included on the Health Service Journal (HSJ)’s list of Inspirational Women in Healthcare in 2013 and Clinical Leaders in 2014 and 2015. In 2015 also, the Nursing Times (NT) named her as a Clinical Leader in their national ranking and she was one of the first people to be inducted into NT’s Nursing Hall of Fame.

In 2016, Cheryll was awarded a CBE as part of Her Majesty The Queen’s 90th birthday honours in recognition of her contribution to the health visiting profession.

Dr Cheryll Adams CBE, Founding Director of the Institute of Health Visiting (iHV), retired at the end of March 2021 after 40 years working in the health visiting profession. She will stay close to the work of the Institute, providing on-going advice as needed and looks forward to watching the Institute move forwards into its next exciting stage of development.