Hard to reach or easy to ignore? Successfully engaging Northwest London’s most diverse boroughs

Analysis of racism in UK health research brought together considerable evidence of systemic barriers to ethnic equality across UK health research. Our Ethnicity and Health Unit (EHU) took on a rapid three-month project to address these inequalities.  

'In  England, there is a 19-year gap in healthy life expectancy exists between the most and least affluent areas of the country. Moreover, people in most deprived neighbourhoods, certain ethnic minority and inclusion health groups, get multiple long-term health conditions 10 to 15 years earlier than those in the most affluent communities, spending more years in ill health and dying sooner.'  - Office for Health Improvement & Disparities' 2022 guidance

The EHU sought funding from NHS England's Integrated Care Systems Research Engagement Network Development grant and were awarded £100k to support our ICS to increase diversity in research participation through the development of new or existing research networks and activity.

Brent and Hounslow boroughs have the highest levels of ethnic minority communities and health inequalities in Northwest London.

 We partnered with local communities from Brent and Hounslow including: Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprises such as CVS Brent and Ealing and Hounslow CVS, Integrated Care Board North West London, Primary Care Networks, Academic institutions and Charities, Imperial College's Patient Experience Research Centre, to engage Northwest London's most diverse communities in conversations around their health interests and research with a goal to develop a research network reflective of local communities’ challenges and needs.

What have we done so far?

The EHU rapidly galvanised diverse communities often seen as hard to reach, creating a foundation and environment for increasing diversity in research.

Alongside our partners, we ran 10 Health Roadshows, split equally between Brent and Hounslow. Residents from these communities who attended could engage in a variety of activities, such as:

Image of a diverse group of people from many cultural backgrounds with a title above them saying Community Research Champions

Leadership in the Community

We recruited and trained six Community Research Champions who are passionate about their communities, understand their communities' culture and needs, enabling them to support the facilitation of the health roadshows.

We established a Partnership Forum, led by independent chairs, Sarbjit Ganger, director of Asian Women’s Resource Centre in Brent and Professor Patrick Vernon OBE, an independent adviser on equality, diversity and inclusion for the Crown Prosecution Service and Islington Council, giving a focus for the project and a mechanism to push the agenda forward.  

The Partnership Forum will discuss ways to increase diversity in research and will help guide the engagement of ethnic minority communities in research in the future. 

 How did it go?

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1212 Brent and Hounslow residents attended health roadshows

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597 residents had health checks 

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33 stakeholders attended our Partnership Forum

Empowering Community Research Champions and embedding them within the roadshows had a wide-ranging impact with five specific benefits reported: 

“When you form that relationship with someone,  they just talk about anything and everything.  I had people talk about the housing issues,  the care pack here, so once they get friendly with you  and trust you, they talk about everything and that gives you a chance to talk about the research and get some  feedback and see what their thoughts are.” - Community Research Champion
“The lady is from my country, that is India and  she wasn't able to understand the English.  And she was very confused.  Like, what is the survey and how can I fill the  feedback form. So in my language I help her  understand all the things. So she understood  very well and she was happy that we are doing this.” - Community Research Champion

Working with our local partners, we changed mindsets and supported the engagement of communities that are less involved in research and created an environment and foundation where they feel valued, understood and informed.

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