REACH Community Health Project

Black and Minority Ethnic Community Participation in Health

The Group
REACH is an innovative community-based health initiative whose aim is to provide culturally sensitive and accessible preventative clinical health information and services to the Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) community living in the City of Glasgow. The project is also committed to influencing change within mainstream health services to better address the health needs of this particular community.

What were they trying to achieve?
The project aimed to investigate how the BME community can achieve equal access to mainstream primary care services by identifying the major barriers that prevent effective access, and proposing practical solutions to tackle these.

How did they go about it?
A diverse team of co-researchers was recruited from the local community. A survey was conducted of 150 people aged 16 to 65 in the Govanhill and Pollokshields East neighbourhoods.

What did they learn?
The health needs and experiences of the NHS are not determined simply by ethnicity but by age, gender and social class. BME health still seems to be poorly served in the NHS, with persistent problems of language support, lack of female health professionals, and lack of information about services. There was a general feeling of disempowerment because participants felt their opinions about their health were not valued by professionals and their concerns were not being addressed adequately by staff. A series of specific recommendations were made, including: 

  • availability of interpreters and bilingual staff
  • staff valuing patients' views
  • increased staffing levels to allow more time for consultation with patients
  • more flexible appointment times
  • choice of gender staff
  • transport services for elderly patients
  • better education on health including peer education
  • outreach and information designed by young people
  • greater participation in health services through BME committees in the NHS
  • voluntary or community organisations representing BME views in the NHS
  • improved direct consultation by the NHS
  • effective anti-racism and anti-discrimination training for NHS staff 

What difference did it make?
To ensure that the BME community in Glasgow is effectively engaged in reform of public services and can participate fully in the new policy structures, REACH  successfully applied to The Big Lottery Fund for a new project called ‘Public Policy, Active Citizenship' (PPAC) which will provide: 

  • Research, training and development to both statutory professionals and BME communities to enable more effective BME community participation in the policy development process
  • A framework for delivering more accessible and integrated community based health services for the BME community 

Built into PPAC is also the proactive drive to include ‘hard to reach groups'. With regards to community engagement and health, BME men are one of the most difficult groups to engage in policy discussions as well as increasing their access to health services. As a result, BME men will be highlighted as a group with particular disadvantages and, therefore, a priority need within PPAC. 

The main aim of PPAC is to provide a bridge between the new reforming structures of the NHS and the City Council and local BME communities, to facilitate a process of effective BME community engagement and participation within the changing public policy arenas.  

See Akhtar, S, Alam, U, Baber, R, Chauhan, V, Cui, H and Zafar, Z, 2004, The Missing Link: Black and Minority Ethnic Community Participation in Health. Glasgow: REACH Community Health Project

Shehla Ihsan
REACH Community Health Project
Tel:  0141 585 8022/8023