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New project to tackle health inequalities to roll out across UK

13 April 2007

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A pioneering project to tackle glaring health inequalities in the South Asian population in South Warwickshire is being given vital funding from the University of Warwick to roll out across the UK.

A Pathfinder grant from the Department of Health (DH) Social Enterprise Unit is being used to further develop the Apnee Sehat project, which is based in Leamington Spa and will be managed by the University of Warwick.

Although just over two years old, the Apnee Sehat project, developed in conjunction with the university, has already picked up no less than five major award nominations, and is also a finalist in the Reducing Health Inequalities category of the 2006 Health and Social Care Awards run by the Department of Health and the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement to recognise excellence in the provision of frontline care.

Speaking for the DH Social Enterprise Unit, Health Minister Ivan Lewis commented: “The pathfinder projects selected cover a wide range of innovative services that work for the benefit of individuals and the community more widely. Each in some way brings entrepreneurial approaches to delivering health and social care services.”

Apnee Sehat (meaning “our health” in Punjabi) was set up to address the disproportionately high incidence of diabetes, strokes and heart attacks in South Asian populations in the UK. It consists of a broad-ranging campaign of imaginative patient education initiatives and community events designed around the specific needs and cultural preferences of Asian families.

Consultant diabetologist at Warwick Hospital, Dr Shirine Boardman, is the mastermind behind the Apnee Sehat project. She worked with the University of Warwick’s Warwick Medical School, Warwickshire Primary Care Trust (PCT) and local community groups to set it up. She said: “By applying social marketing techniques, with straightforward emotive messages and simple practical advice communicated in a wide range of media (from posters, recipes, calendars and community events to health fairs, cooking classes and a Bollywood-style DVD), the project is already succeeding in changing the behaviours, dietary choices, exercise regimes and other lifestyle factors that exacerbate this serious problem for the South Asian diaspora.”

Warwick Medical School’s Professor of Medicine, Sudhesh Kumar has been involved in developing the project. He said: “Warwick Medical School is delighted to have been able to help support this new initiative. This project should produce significant improvements in health care for the South Asian population. Pathfinder status will allow Apnee Sehat to consider replicating its work across the UK and improve the lives of South Asian patients with diabetes.”S

The Director of Public Health for NHS Warwickshire, Dr Tim Davies added: “Everyone who has been involved in the project has worked hard to ensure it has been a success and the achievements have been a credit to the partnership working between the community and a whole range of different organisations.  It’s important that the project now continues to reduce inequality and ensure that more and more people in Warwickshire receive the help and support they need in order to enjoy healthier lives.”

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