CANCER SUPPORT SERVICE
Understanding of Diversity, Culture and Religion
Awareness of services and providers
Here in the UK we are fortunate to have one of the world’s most comprehensive cancer support services, providing a full spectrum of help and support for our communities. Generally these services are engaged at a time of great distress and uncertainty, making it all the more important to provide a inclusive service for all our communities.
Our objectives at BAME Voices are to increase awareness of existing services, in doing so improve the uptake and the outcomes of the so called “hard to reach” groups. Traditional methods of circulating information, such as leaflets in doctors surgeries and information booths at events have limited impact and do not reach some of the neediest in society. Our approach is different, we work with community based grassroots organisations to deliver the information direct to the community. This has allowed us to create a trusting and understanding relationship of mutual interest. The benefit for the community and services providers is obvious, the additional value this relationship brings is for research purposes and information gathering.
The lack of uptake of screening programs by both men and women is of great concern throughout the whole of the United Kingdom. This again has greater impact on the BAME communities and is reflected in national statistical data.
Why greater disparities exist and how to make change, requires an understanding of the diversity within communities and cultures for which you are creating and supplying this service. If we take the mobile breast screening unit for example, this is a fantastic innovative method that has helped to increase the uptake, it would not work within south Asian communities due to the high modesty values of that community. We found that if we prearranged a time with the hospital screening team to screen ten ladies from a community centre as a group. The community centre would provide transport to and from hospital. This method of working with communities will produce better outcomes for all.
This is probably the most difficult of services to provide and the one most important in which to have extensive knowledge of the community, all the complexities within cultural and religious differences added at a time of heighten stress and emotional instability can be a mine field. Working closely with community faith based organisations enables us to have that understanding and due to the established relationship created over many years of serving these communities, we are openly accepted. In some religions and cultures end of life is, the end, whereas in others it is the beginning or a transitional period to another life. Having the understanding of this diversity at this time could make the difference between helping or insulting someone.
We are currently working alongside a number of universities and service providers within research and development programs, to further understand how new innovations in treatment may affect different ethnicities from a cultural and religious perspective. We also have representation on various steering groups and CCG’s (Clinical Commissioning Groups) where we try to offer insight and support for future service development in relation to BAME communities.
This aspect of the service has been extremely undervalued in the past, more recently though the NHS and government have realised the extensive savings to be made by providing a support mechanism for people caring for loved ones without payment. The financial benefits alone are immense but the release of stress on the already under resourced NHS is invaluable.
After taking all this into account, this service, in our opinion is the least developed and the one that needs most attention. Carers come in all shapes, sizes, colours, religions and ages. We need to provide a competent service to cover all their needs and support to help them continue.
Within certain communities it is not a choice to look after a loved one but considered an honour and a privilege. The impact on carers is already understood but the understanding from an individual’s perspective that has no choice or may not be able to do so is different. When you have to look after a loved one because within your community you will be considered dishonourable and weak, for that reason you carry on with total disregard for your personal health and wellbeing.