Improving health through BME volunteers


18 / 04 / 2009

Strategic Health Authority

NHS North East


The organisation

Stockton-on-Tees Teaching Primary Care Trust (TPCT) covers a population of 186,000 people in the Stockton-on-Tees area. The TPCT is working towards the requirements of the Department of Health’s World Class Commissioning competency framework. 

The TPCT’s commissioning role is based on a strategic vision to transform both health services and the health of the local population. This involves working closely with partners in local authorities through Joint Strategic Needs Assessments. This identifies those areas where, if the TPCTs made major improvements, they would measurably improve life expectancy and access to services, and be fair and equitable for all and thus reduce health inequalities to make a real difference to the population of Teesside.


What we did and why

Large-scale surveys like the Health Survey for England show that black and minority ethnic (BME) groups are more likely to report ill-health and ill-heath starts at a younger age than in the white population. There is more variation in the rates of some diseases by ethnicity than by other socio-economic factors. However, patterns of ethnic variation in health are extremely diverse, and inter-link with many overlapping factors; for example, ethnic differences in health vary between men and women, as well as between geographic areas.

Furthermore, access to health services is poorer for BME groups. Some of the reasons are:

  • People do not know about the service
  • Information is usually only available in English
  • Professionals do not know where to go or who they should contact in order to reach the BME communities
  • Services have not taken into consideration the cultural and language needs of service users
  • People do not always feel welcome

 In order to tackle the health inequalities, the Public Health Department of Stockton-on-Tees TPCT ran a BME volunteer project in January 2008, encouraging local people to be health champions in the community. It aimed to create a positive health impact and support greater access to preventative health services in Stockton.  


How we did it

The trust used a peer education approach based on evidence of good practice from previous work carried out in Stockton.

Health volunteers were recruited through local BME partnerships, Stockton BME network and the asylum support team, with the help of posters in community centres, shops and mosques, as well as direct recruitment from local ESOL classes.

The project primarily targeted people from BME communities but was open to anyone who lived in Stockton. The volunteers were invited to attend a Champions for Community Health course (OCN Level 2) so that they could develop the skills and knowledge to enable them to understand the different aspects of health. The volunteers also received accredited or non-accredited training on specific health topics, to give them the necessary knowledge to promote health to their families and friends.


The results and next steps

Eleven health volunteers from the local community, who had taken part in the project, successfully achieved the OCN Level 2 – Champion for Community Health Course.

This boosted their confidence working with different community groups, their skills and knowledge of health promotion work.   Together, the volunteers organised two health awareness days and one BME health event.

The volunteers are now continuing to provide advice to families and friends and four of the volunteers have got a full time job in the health setting. One of them was employed by Stockton-on-Tees TPCT as a health trainer.


Contact details

Barbara Campbell, eBarbara.campbell@middlesbroughpct.nhs.ukquality and diversity involvement manager,



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