One of the factors that cause health inequalities are due to cultural differences. For example, with some people in Asian communities, if they have an illness, they do not want to share it with anyone. It is something they want to keep to themselves. So we can begin to tackle this, by passing on the healthy messages and challenging the myths and thoughts that might stop people from getting checked. Doing this makes me feel proud that we are contributing something to save people’s lives.
Community groups can play a role in addressing health inequalities. The Voice of BME Trafford started a project where we were sitting in doctors’ surgeries and making telephone calls to the patients about coming in for a check. That really made a difference. We ring up patients directly and discuss with them the importance of coming in, and we do so in the community language that they understand. We also address any barriers there might be. For example, we came to know that many women mix up cervical screening with checks for sexually transmitted diseases. Some of these things are cleared during the conversation that we have. One to one conversations have started to shift quite a number of things. By us making telephone calls from the surgeries, the rates for cervical screening for the whole of Trafford has shifted and Trafford is now amongst the best performing areas in the whole of England.
When the conversation is coming from a volunteer, it is different in that the volunteer can often relate more to that person. The knowledge is brought down to the level in the community. For people in the community who might have a reading age of a year eight, or cannot even communicate fully in English, then you have to make it easier for them to understand. If you’re from the community and can talk to them on that level, then it has a better impact. We are eradicating their communication barrier. Cultural knowledge is equally important. If a volunteer has a cultural knowledge that they can bring together with the knowledge of what cancer is all about and how can we prevent it, then we are able to break it down in way that is easier for a person to understand.
The Cancer Champions is a movement that has just started. It is in the initial state, but if we can recruit more people, then it will create a ripple effect in the community and nationwide. More people will be aware of the signs and symptoms. So this means that early detection, or early intervention, will be more common. It will not only help people themselves, but also help the NHS. The benefits of it will be phenomenal.
Community groups can play a role in addressing health inequalities.