This case study from the team at Slough PCT (Primary Care Trust) highlight how critical it is for public services to understand and reflect the cultural traditions, customs, and nuances of communities so that they can better reach their target groups. Indeed, the design of services and the communications around these services can often dictate how successful a service can be. And there are many instances of adapting services to cultural behaviours and attitudes of minority groups. It reminds me of a similar pilot programme from California that ran a few years ago.
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles offered a promising practical solution to a long-standing health concern among African-American men. The initiative, funded by a grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, introduced blood pressure testing machines and training into barbershops in African-American neighbourhoods in LA. In other words, you want a heart check-up with your fade? The initiative trained barbers on the proper procedures for taking and recording blood pressure. Cedars-Sinai doctors then tracked patients once they had been checked by their barber. Those that are most high-risk were referred to nearly two dozen local and low-cost health clinics. The doctors, in an extra outreach effort, also saw patients and accepted those who are low-income or without insurance. And similar to the Slough PCT campaign, placing importance on accessibility and comfortability for routine medical check-ups that need minimal training could open the door for basic tests that will reach vulnerable, difficult-to-reach, or reluctant members of minority populations.
Slough's and LA's experiences in developing programmes that build connections with minority community leaders highlight the potential to reach potentially vulnerable groups. Whilst the article rightly points out that these approaches can be challenging in more diverse, 'melting pot'-type neighbourhoods, I nevertheless take this as instructive case studies in public service development and communication.
This is an example of the importance of ethnic understanding in the design of a public communications campaign. Without it the Sikh community would have been under-represented in diabetes screening, a public service for all UK residents.