Healthwatch Sunderland has united with the Sunderland Bangladesh International Centre (SBIC) throughout the pandemic.
The partnership work has seen Healthwatch Sunderland deliver advice and guidance to the SBIC, which has been beneficial to health inequalities highlighted in recent research and feedback.
By working with members of the BAME community who use SBIC to gather feedback, Healthwatch Sunderland have been able to connect NHS workers within South Tyneside and the Sunderland Foundation Trust (STSFT) to address issues experienced when using Sunderland Royal Hospital.
John Dean, Chair of Healthwatch Sunderland said; “Providing a platform for grassroot groups such as SBIC enables health inequalities to be highlighted and issues and concerns to be raised in health services across our city.
"It is important that we engage with community groups in Sunderland to ensure the voices of our full population are heard.”
It is hoped the outcome of the partnership will lead to the SBIC having regular communication with the Trust, increased equality and diversity training for Trust staff, the development of communications aids including picture cards, which will ultimately enable staff to communicate better with people who do not have English as a first language.
Abu Sharma, Manager of SBIC said; “Through our partnership working with Healthwatch we are able to advocate the voices of BAME individuals raising their issues and concerns in relation to health inequalities and how better we all can work together to make services meet needs of local BAME communities and individuals.
"The partnership with Healthwatch has helped us at the Centre to develop our connections in different health areas such as for example cancer in helping to raise awareness in this field within the BAME communities.”
Through the partnership work, Healthwatch Sunderland were able to make links between SBIC and the North Cancer Alliance, which has led to increased cancer awareness opportunities.
The connection between SBIC and the Northern Cancer Alliance will see work set to educate the BAME community about the risks, signs and symptoms of cancer and to encourage people to talk about cancer related health issues within their communities.
This work will also encourage people to take screening seriously and to take up the opportunity for screening when it is offered to them.
Through this continued work, SBIC hope to offer a buddy system to Sunderland’s BAME communities, enabling them to attend the centre to have confidential discussions with staff there about cancer.
Nahida Aktar, Community Development Officer from SBIC said; “BAME communities are more likely to be diagnosed with cancer at an advanced stage and less likely to communicate with others, as there is a prevalent stigma surrounding cancer.
"Most believe that a disease such as cancer should be kept within their own household and that one should not share or discuss their experiences with others.
"Even the mere mention of the word ‘cancer’ is met with panic and distress most likely due to fear of the stigma surrounding cancer in BAME communities.
"Only through raising awareness around cancer we can begin break down the stigma in our local community in Sunderland so that people receive early diagnosis and intervention as well as receiving the right support and care.
This is a subject which needs to be spoken about within our BAME communities and this work will give us the perfect opportunity to do this.”
Further links have been made between SBIC and Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group, who are currently working to improve the information available to women in Sunderland and South Tyneside around the menopause.
Nahida Aktar, added: “More accessible information is needed for the local BAME women to understand the significance of menopause and its health implications and how it varies in its affects in individual women.
"I am keen to enable this through my involvement with the new ‘You are not alone’, menopause group and would like to thank Healthwatch Sunderland for putting us in touch with them.”
For the activities and services provided by Sunderland Bangladesh International Centre visit their website.