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Launch of The Health Collective

Newly formed ‘Health Collective’ to tackle women’s health inequalities in marginalised communities.

A group of women standing huddle together, there is also one man standing on the far right side- Dr Nighat Arif is in the centre; arms outstretched

The launch report from the newly formed Health Collective has come out today, highlighting cultural insensitivity, inaccessible health information and lack of representation as key barriers facing Black, Asian and other marginalised groups when accessing healthcare.

Barriers identified:

  • Inaccessible health information, as materials are often not culturally relevant or translated, with many women relying on husbands or relatives to interpret medical information.
  • Guidance rarely being diverse in imagery and messaging, which undermines women’s trust in healthcare professionals.
  • Members of the Health Collective reported that NHS staff can show unconscious bias when delivering care to patients from diverse backgrounds, by failing to understand cultural and religious nuances.
  • A lack of representation and the exclusion of marginalised communities in research, media, and policy conversations.
  • The lack of long-term funding for grassroots organisations makes it difficult to create long-lasting change.

The Health Collective was launched by Wellbeing of Women in September 2023 to ensure that the voices and knowledge of women from marginalised communities are fed into the delivery of the Women’s Health Strategy to help address the stark health inequalities across society. It will also form a platform for collaboration, enabling partners across regions and issues to share knowledge, amplify impact and campaign jointly.

The Health Collective will play a critical role in delivering on the promises of the Women’s Health Strategy to improve healthcare for all girls and women” Professor Dame Lesley Regan Chair of Wellbeing of Women and Women’s Health Ambassador for England

Professor Dame Lesley Regan and Dr Nighat Arif standing closely together

The gender health gap disproportionally affects women from marginalised groups. Recent research showed that the rate of women dying in the UK in 2018–20 during pregnancy or up to six weeks after the end of their pregnancy was 3.7 times higher within the Black community, and 1.7 times higher in the Asian community, compared with the White participants.

The report put forward different solutions to tackle these barriers and inequalities including more training for healthcare professionals, and accessible healthcare information and representation, but also core funding for grassroots initiatives which support women to access services.

The Health Collective is seeking more members, in the form of grassroots organisations or healthcare professionals that represent or support marginalised communities.

Dr Nighat Arif, Wellbeing of Women Ambassador and Women’s Health GP Specialist said,

“The UK has the widest gender health gap in the G20 as our health system has been designed by men for men. This is particularly pronounced for women from marginalised communities.  When the Women’s Health Strategy for England was published, a promise was made to tackle deeply rooted inequalities in our healthcare system to improve outcomes for all women. There is an urgent need to address poorer health outcomes for women from diverse communities, and The Health Collective is an exciting opportunity to map grassroots organisations and work in partnership to drive meaningful change. The first step is to rebuild trust with the NHS and those who run the health systems, which has been lost through years of dismissal and historical evidence of medical mistreatment. This can only be remedied by working with, and leadership from, grassroots organisations who can ensure women’s voices from every community in society are heard.”

Professor Dame Lesley Regan, Chair of Wellbeing of Women and Women’s Health Ambassador for England said,

“Women’s healthcare needs have consistently been ignored and neglected. Many of our current clinical services and research evidence are based on men as the default patient. Even where we’re seeing progress there is still a huge health gap for those women from marginalised groups.

“The Women’s Health Strategy was a first step in recognising this disparity, and now we must turn that strategy into the action needed to narrow the gap. It was inspiring to listen to grassroots organisations who are leading the way with best practice in their communities. Through collaboration and continued momentum, The Health Collective will play a critical role in delivering on the promises of the Women’s Health Strategy to improve healthcare for all girls and women”.