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WORKING FOR CHANGE: Faye Bruce, Dr Ornette Clennon, CAHN consultant for research, and Eula Miller, CAHN director, are leading the way in aiming to improve BME wellbeing

AN AWARD-winning academic is driving forward an agenda to provide tailor-made health care benefits for the African and Caribbean communities of Greater Manchester.

Manchester Metropolitan University programme leader for nursing, Faye Bruce recently received the Mary Seacole Development Award for her plans to develop knowledge health literacy among Caribbean and African faith leaders.

Faye’s ongoing PhD research led to the launch of the Caribbean and African Health Network (CAHN) in Greater Manchester recently. The non-profit organisation, which she chairs, is led by a team of directors from professions that span academia, research, criminal justice, health professions, faith and community leadership. It is also supported by a number of partners and experts across the field to include academic, legal, organisational and strategic consultancy.

Her PhD title is: An ethnographic study to explore and identify the ‘hidden factors’ that shape the everyday meaning of health for women of African and Caribbean descent: A Cardiovascular Disease Focus.

“We are in the process of gathering intelligence about health services already present and aim to promote tailored approaches to health prevention. There are so many health initiatives in the community CAHN is about building capacity around health and wellbeing in the community,” said Faye.

Research reveals that many of the health conditions prevalent within the BME community are chronic and often inadequately resourced by mainstream services.

Faye gives the example that although the Government has produced evidence-based recommendations on preventing cardiovascular disease not one recommendation is tailored to the Black community.

One of the areas it fails to address is cultural differences in diet and CAHN has plans to produce an alternative Eatwell Guide, a tool produced by the government to give dietary recommendations.

The current guide advises on eating healthily and achieving a balanced diet, illustrating how much of what you eat overall should come from each food group but does not take into account the different foods eaten by other ethnic groups.

CAHN aims to address the relative poor health and outcomes in the Black community and increase opportunities for access to good and appropriate health care. The organisation has established links and conducted initial research with a large number of Caribbean and African Faith and Community organisations across the Greater Manchester Region.

“We aim to work collaboratively with commissioners, statutory organisations and voluntary sector organisations with a particular emphasis on sustaining health and wellbeing provision within the Caribbean and African community,” Faye added.

The results of the initial research were presented at the inaugural launch last week in South Manchester. The event was attended by over 150 people including keynote speaker Professor Gus John who referred to CAHN as ‘one of the most incredible initiatives of our time.’

The ultimate focus of CAHN will be to facilitate capacity building in the Caribbean and African voluntary, community sector, ensuring they are commission ready to deliver evidence based, and culturally appropriate health and wellbeing services within a framework of governance.

There are a series of community consultations planned between the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership (GMHSCP) and CAHN. These consultations will help to inform and shape the health care agenda and Manchester’s devolved health budget for African and Caribbean communities as well as the wider community. CAHN is to take the lead on producing a relevant Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)

“It is hugely significant for the Black community that CAHN is leading on this. We are now sat around the table and spearheading some of these initiatives. That’s huge,” said Faye.

Rev. Charles Kwaku-Odoi, Co-Chair, Faith Network for Manchester and CAHN member, said: “According to the 2011 census, with a 500% increase in the population of the black community and a fast growing network of black churches across Greater Manchester, it is important for us to engage in a process that is about the sustained development of BAME health outcomes.”

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