Health inequalities 'must be tackled'

GREATER efforts must be made to address inequalities experienced by ethnic communities and minority groups living in Suffolk, the county's director of public health has admitted.

Craig Robinson

GREATER efforts must be made to address inequalities experienced by ethnic communities and minority groups living in Suffolk, the county's director of public health has admitted.

Dr Peter Bradley said there had not been enough focus on this area in the past but assured NHS Suffolk would be working hard to redress the balance in the future.

He was speaking yesterday at a meeting of the NHS Suffolk board during the presentation of its Annual Public Health Report.


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The document outlines the main challenges facing ethnic communities and minority groups living in the county and sets out what should be done to address these issues and areas of continuing concern.

Among the groups included in the report are: family carers, sex workers, gypsy and traveller communities, migrant workers, asylum seekers and refugees and prisoners.

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Dr Bradley, director of public health with Suffolk County Council and NHS Suffolk, said: “There are specific issues related to each community which when identified are particularly problematic.

“The report offers a number of recommendations. Communities don't always have the knowledge that they need in order to use our services. There can be significant language and interpretational issues.

“We've got to work more with communities and their representatives to achieve the best results. Our staff need to have a greater cultural understanding. There isn't really enough focus on specific health issues relevant to specific communities.”

But Dr Bradley said he hoped this year's annual health report would raise awareness of the issues surrounding ethnic communities and minority groups.

He said a lot of work was already underway to help these individuals, including the recent launch of Healthy Ambitions, a drive to make Suffolk the healthiest county in the country by 2028.

Other measures identified in the report include working with the voluntary sector to create a multi-agency response to help family carers and a common policy to offer respite care when they need a break.

Improvements earmarked for ethnic minorities include training staff in the importance of specific cultural issues, better language skills, mental health advances, better access to sexual health services and building on the Race for Health programme to find the best ways to inform groups about health messages and services.

Meanwhile there is also a recommendation for a health needs assessment of gypsy and traveller communities covering such areas as barriers to accessing care, infant mortality, immunisation and smoking.

Dr Bradley said: “A lot of progress has already begun and we are beginning to take this work forward.

“We have already launched our Healthy Ambitions project - bringing together health, local government and the voluntary and private sector to improve health in Suffolk and tackle inequalities.

“Diverse communities have to be a focus in that programme. We have to provide services and information in an accessible way.

“We will need to be working much more closely with our communities because that's the only way we can achieve the results we want.”

Health inequalities among minority groups in Suffolk

§ Eight out of ten prisoners smoke, compared with one in four adults in Suffolk generally.

§ Over a third of family carers report that caring makes them worried, depressed or tired - with three in four consulting their GP every year about their physical health.

§ Young black men are six times more likely than young white men to be sectioned for compulsory treatment under the Mental Health Act.

§ The prevalence of stroke among Afro-Caribbean and South Asian men is 70% higher than the average.

§ South Asian people are 50% more likely to die prematurely from coronary heart disease than the general population.

§ One in six gypsies and travellers are not registered with a GP.

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