Lewisham Council is to work with its counterparts in Birmingham on a review into health inequalities within black African and Caribbean communities.
Black African and Caribbean communities are disproportionately affected by health problems in the UK, while black Caribbean people suffer nearly three times the death rate from Covid-19 compared to that of white people.
The Birmingham and Lewisham African and Caribbean Health Inequalities Review will cover an 18-month period and look at specific issues such as health conditions, lifestyle, mental health, employment and housing.
According to the 2011 census, 46.5 per cent of Lewisham borough’s population are from black and minority ethnic groups. The largest ethnic minority groups are black African (11.6 per cent) and black Caribbean (11.2 per cent). Some 77 per cent of Lewisham’s schools population comes from a BAME background.
In Birmingham, 42 per cent of the population and 60 per cent of children under five were from BAME groups compared to 17 per cent across England. Birmingham The city accounts for about eight per cent of the total black African and Caribbean population of England.
The review, which looks to “break the cycle of inequalities”, aims to inform the work of the two councils, the NHS and other organisations “to make sustainable changes that start to address decades of inequalities”.
Lewisham’s elected mayor, Damien Egan, said “learning lessons needs to start now”.
“This is not just about the impact coronavirus is having on BAME communities, but prompted by this current pandemic, we must seize the opportunity to drive an evidence-led approach on addressing health inequalities,” he said.
“For some time now, we have been gathering insights into the health inequalities facing Black African and Caribbean communities in Lewisham to drive our public health plans. News of the coronavirus-related deaths of frontline workers from these communities is heart breaking and a stark reminder that we need to urgently address these health inequalities.”
Paulette Hamilton, the cabinet member for health and social care at at Birmingham City Council, said: “Both Birmingham and Lewisham have high levels of deprivation and poor health that disproportionately affect certain communities.
“It is really important that our public health experts pool their knowledge to address these issues and by working in partnership they should get a broader insight into each community and an opportunity to compare and contrast experiences in two local authority areas.”
Dr Catherine Mbema, Lewisham’s director of public health, said: “It’s a unique and ambitious initiative. Driven by local communities, overseen by local government with the academic focus, we are determined to ensure this review will point to clear solutions that we hope will inform decision-making within government.”
Grainne Cuffe is the Local Democracy Reporter for Lewisham. The Local Democracy Reporter Service is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
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