linicians and researchers have launched a new project aimed at increasing the uptake of NHS health checks and spreading breast cancer awareness among Black and Asian women.
The ‘BELONG’ study will see researchers from King’s College London work alongside GPs, nurses, healthcare assistants and salon owners to create a new app to encourage women from minority ethnic communities to undertake health checks.
It comes in response to a growing need for community care to get involved in helping prevent diseases from arising in the first place, and tackle health inequalities.
In London, less than half of women invited for NHS Health Checks to diagnose risk of heart diseases take up the invitation, with approximately six in 10 eligible women attending breast cancer screenings.
In the 12-month pilot, hairdressers and beauty salon therapists will chat with their customers and staff about the importance of the checks and signpost the app to remind women who are eligible to book free NHS Health Checks.
Data collected in the study will be fed back into NHS online consultation app DR iQ, which will be modified to reflect cultural needs and preferences. It will allow the app to promote culturally-appropriate self-care resources, such as on healthy eating and active living.
Dr Mariam Molokhia, Principle Investigator and a Reader in Primary Care at King’s College London, said the new approach ensures communities “have a say in shaping culturally accessible services” to both prevent and manage health.
She told the Standard the focus on salons is because they are “familiar and trusted places where women meet”, and are likely to help normalise healthcare messages by embedding them in everyday conversations.
Dr Veline L’Esperance, a co-investigator and a clinical advisor to the Observatory, said it was crucial that health inequalities were addressed and that “targeted intervention” can help.
So far, nine salons across South and West London have signed up and will participate in discussions around the app’s design, proposed content and the feasibility of using hair and beauty salon premises.
The staff will be trained by the research team to signpost their customers to educational resources in the app, such as breast symptom checker cards.
Local GP surgeries will also be on hand to provide advice.
The study is funded by National Institute for Health Research and backed by The NHS Race and Health Observatory.
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