Health inequalities and dementia

Inequalities in health services, employment, housing and many other issues are having a detrimental impact on the health and wellbeing of minority ethnic people.

Coronavirus has made things worse, with black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities suffering much higher fatalities than the white population, coupled with a lack of government action to deal with this tragic situation.

Meanwhile, recent research suggests the average health of a 60-year-old BAME man is similar to that of an average 80-year-old white person.

My particular concern is about the lack of information and resources being put into the mental health needs of the BAME population, and especially those living with dementia.

My mother suffered from dementia and it was obvious she faced a lack of knowledge, understanding and inadequate support from various NHS bodies.

Health providers need to be sensitive to cultural stereotypes; some communities are assumed to be ‘looking after their own’, resulting in services that do not reach out to individuals and families from BAME communities.

I have been pressing local health managers for months about poor mental health and dementia services for minority ethnic people in Rochdale. Our local clinical commissioning group (CCG) has now agreed to undertake a major study into the inequalities in healthcare facing our local BAME communities, once we are firmly on a path out of the pandemic.

Colleagues might want to ask their CCG some of the questions I have, in order to improve services in their areas too – questions about surveying the health of BAME communities, needs assessments and action plans for BAME people living with dementia and poor mental health, numbers of diagnoses, access to supported accommodation, funding, and data on the ethnicity of frontline staff supporting people with dementia and mental health needs.

Urgent action is desperately needed to ensure BAME individuals and families with mental ill-health and dementia are not left to cope alone, in fear, and without support.

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