The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted, and worsened, ethnic health inequalities, with Black and Asian groups more likely to experience poor health outcomes.
Although services are committed to tackling ethnic health inequalities, they often don't engage with Black and Asian communities in ways that are meaningful to them. The importance of engagement with ethnically diverse communities cannot be understated and it is crucial to ensure that service changes and improvements represent all ethnic groups.
What we did
To understand how to best engage with ethnically diverse communities, we built ongoing partnerships with Black and Asian community leaders through a range of one-to-one interviews and group activities - this included holding a stakeholder event with Black Voice Letchworth, One Vision and St. Albans Islamic Centre. Our learning was shared with local services to help inform their engagement.
Micaelia Clarke, Chairperson of Black Voice Letchworth said:
"Healthwatch Hertfordshire's communication, interaction and work has been to the highest standard and should form the template of working with the Black community in the future for other organisations."
What we found
- A deep mistrust in public bodies, resulting in less involvement or engagement from Black and Asian communities on issues relating to healthcare.
- Feelings of being undervalued and concerns about not being treated equally by healthcare professionals and local government.
- A feeling that Black and Asian communities are only engaged with when it suits the needs of the NHS or local government. Community leaders wanted more meaningful engagement, that demonstrated a long-term commitment to listening and building trust.
- Experiences of areas with lower Black and Asian populations being ignored.
- Homogenising different groups, cultures and communities under the term "BAME" is damaging and inappropriate.
- Quick, simple solutions for complex issues don't work. Community leaders stressed the importance of designing interventions from a place of understanding.
- A lack of representation of Black and Asian communities, especially in leadership positions.
- A need for NHS and local government to acknowledge the diversity and complexity of communities.
How we made a difference
- We submitted evidence from this work to local councillors at the Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) Health Inequalities, Health Scrutiny Topic Group. Recommendations were made to healthcare providers by Hertfordshire County Council's Health Scrutiny Committee and we continue to work with them to ensure these recommendations are taken forward.
- We shared our learning on how best to engage with different communities with the Ethnic Minorities Inequalities Group. This group sets out to address health inequalities through community interventions and represents the NHS, local Councils and the voluntary sector.
- Our findings have fed into the Hertfordshire and West Essex Integrated Care System (ICS) Health Inequalities Workstream, to support with the development of a good practice engagement model to ensure the community voice is heard.
This engagement has informed our research: "Making Local Healthcare Equal for All" which looks to understand how Black and Asian communities view and experience local healthcare services.
Key findings will be discussed at our AGM on 19 July, you can register your attendance here.
The full report will be published in Summer 2022.