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Better health for all: The journey to overcoming health inequality





Health is wealth

Symptoms can often prompt us to consult a health professional, however, going a step further and adopting a proactive approach to our health can be that extra push that keeps you living longer, healthier lives. For a number of health issues within the U.K., NHS screening programmes are in place, yet some of us are reluctant to attend. This is even more so exacerbated within BPOC (Black person and person of colour) communities. What can we do to change this and afford better health chances to all, irrespective of colour, class or community? Let’s dive into some of the biggest areas of health disparity currently seen within the BPOC community.


Breast Cancer

Did you know that Black women in England are almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with advanced breast cancer as white women(1), according to a new analysis by Cancer Research UK and Public Health England?

Over the past few decades, despite overall outcomes from breast cancer vastly improving due to earlier diagnosis and more accessibility to effective treatments, it can only be described as tragic that black women have poorer survival outcomes. In one study, ethnic minority women - particularly young, black women - were observed to have more aggressive tumour profiles, providing all the more reason to detect cases earlier. Barriers to early diagnosis included;

  • Absence of pain
  • Conservative attitudes and taboos about breast issues
  • Poor awareness of non-lump related symptoms, with women viewing themselves at low risk of breast cancer.


Awareness, support and enablement are a priority in trying to help communities to help each other and themselves. Check out our blog on breast cancer to help you become more breast aware.


Miscarriage

I didn’t know that the miscarriage rate amongst black women is more than 40% higher than white women, did you? (2)

A previous miscarriage can increase the risk of obstetric complications for a subsequent pregnancy. It is sadly no surprise, therefore, that black women are 4 times more likely to die in pregnancy and childbirth (3). Furthermore, previous miscarriage is also associated with a higher risk of long term health problems, including heart and blood pressure, blood clots and also mental health. These are just some of the statistics that highlight the need for urgent community awareness and action.

Physiological and genetic factors cannot be changed but increased awareness and regular monitoring and surveillance are fundamental requisites to reduce risk which are achievable. The patient’s voice needs to be heard and health professionals need to listen. We need to abandon dismissive attitudes and embrace greater diversity across the system of antenatal care. Check out the following useful resources to help support our mothers-to-be:

https://www.themotherhoodgroup.com/

https://www.birthrights.org.uk/factsheets/

https://www.fivexmore.com/6steps


COVID-19

It is no secret that black people were nearly 4 times more likely to die from Covid (4), and, by June, it was found that Black people in every age group had the lowest vaccination rate (5), although this had been improving. Reasons for hesitancy included;

  • Concerns about side effects
  • Long-term impacts on health
  • Lack of trust in government and medical professionals

Working with and within communities would be a great step forward. On a daily basis, as a health professional, I hear and acknowledge concerns of the individual, we discuss choices and, most often, find a “middle ground”- a joint decision between patient and health professional where together, we choose an option which delivers most perceived good and least harm. These conversations need to happen and continue if we are ever going to see lasting change and health enlightenment with our patients. If you have concerns over getting the COVID vaccine, please reach out to your doctor who can alleviate any fears you may have.


Take control of your health

There are some things we cannot control in life, so let’s take control of whatever we can, most importantly our health. Please reach out to a health professional and discuss your concerns, as dialogue is vital to this process of everyone, everywhere, achieving better health. Together, I’m sure we’ll find a way forward.



References

  1. https://www.cancerresearchuk.o...
  2. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(21)00682-6/fulltext
  3. https://www.npeu.ox.ac.uk/mbrrace-uk/reports
  4. https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/articles/coronavirusrelateddeathsbyethnicgroupenglandandwales/2march2020to10april2020
  5. https://www.england.nhs.uk/statistics/statistical-work-areas/covid-19-vaccinations/

The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of a doctor with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never delay seeking or disregard professional medical advice because of something you have read here.