Innovative partnership between Birmingham and Lewisham identifies almost 40 steps to tackle health inequalities affecting Black communities
In a unique collaboration, Birmingham City and Lewisham councils came together during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic to lead an 18-month study, synthesising analysis of published data and evidence, and people’s own accounts of their lived experiences.
The collaborative approach worked with academics and community representatives to consider the evidence of inequality, both data driven and from lived experience, and the research into interventions and practice and focused on coproducing solutions as opportunities for action to make real change rather than just continuing with established views and practices.
The project has culminated in today’s publication of the Birmingham and Lewisham African Health Inequalities Review (BLACHIR), which identifies seven key areas for action by all partners and 39 specific and detailed ‘opportunities for action’ to address multiple layers of disadvantage and discrimination that impact on people's lives.
The Review identifies seven key areas for action:
- Fairness, inclusion and respect
- Trust and transparency
- Better data
- Early interventions at key points in life
- Culturally intelligent Health checks and campaigns
- Better approaches to healthier behaviours
- Health literacy
The Review focuses on local leadership – with calls for action by health and wellbeing boards; integrated care systems; councils; strategic partnerships; community and voluntary sector partners; as well as regional and national authorities. This is about making meaningful steps towards changing decades of discrimination and creating new partnerships for change.
Birmingham is home to 8% of the Black African and Black Caribbean populations in England, and 23% of Lewisham’s population is of Black African or Black Caribbean heritage (ONS 2011).
The Directors of Public Health, Dr Justin Varney (Birmingham) and Dr Catherine Mbema (Lewisham) said, “For too long our Black African and Black Caribbean populations have experienced health inequalities. These have often been ignored and their voices unheard, with these inequalities often accepted as fact rather than an unacceptable wrong to be addressed.
“This review clearly demonstrates and reinforces known evidence that there are reasons - social, economic and environmental - that determine significant inequalities in health outcomes amongst Black African and Black Caribbean communities, both locally and nationally.
“These reasons lead to growing inequalities which have continued to worsen throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We must address the root causes and not just the results of bad health, by focusing on fairness, a good start in life, supporting individuals at key stages and planning interventions better, in partnership with our communities. We must continuously improve the way services support people in culturally competent ways before, during and after they have experienced illness and need extra support."
Councillor Juliet Campbell, Lewisham’s Cabinet Member for Communities, Refugees and Wellbeing said, “The partnership between Lewisham and Birmingham Councils is an excellent joint piece of work that builds on what we already know with regards to health inequalities for African and Caribbean people. The project’s focus was a combination of an academic perspective and the perspective of those with a lived experience to identify how we address and root out the underpinning issues that create these inequalities. I am looking forward to building on this work and collaborating with our partners so that we create a health service that is fair, that is caring and safe for everyone to use.”
Councillor Mariam Khan, Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care and Chair of Birmingham Health and Wellbeing Board, said, “The official launch of the review in Birmingham and Lewisham is part of our public commitment to implementing change. Throughout the year ahead we will start the work to implement the opportunities for action that are included in the report. In Birmingham this work will be overseen by the health and wellbeing boards and the Creating a City Without Inequality Forum”.