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Health communicators urged to improve strategies to help ‘at risk’ groups make lifestyle changes

Healthcare companies and organisations may be wasting vast amounts of money on communication activities to South Asian communities because they are not using available insight effectively, according to South Asian health expert Dr Wasim Hanif (pictured). 
Dr Hanif told an audience of marketing and communications specialists that they had an opportunity to influence behaviour change among South Asians in order to improve their health outcomes - however there were clear barriers to overcome.
Dr Hanif was speaking at a breakfast briefing to launch Inside Out – a new offering from Red Door Communications in collaboration with South Asian experts that has been established to optimise the communications of healthcare organisations or companies with patients and consumers in South Asian communities in the UK. 
`Religion and cultural background play a huge role in dictating the varying dietary, alcohol and smoking habits of this group,’ Dr Hanif told the meeting in London. ‘And when it comes to taking advice, word of mouth from the elders of the community or family networks hold most sway.’ 
Dr Hanif said a common misconception is that language is a barrier to communicating with South Asian communities - companies therefore saw translation as a simple solution.  ‘However, 92% of the total population of England and Wales speak English as a main language,’[i] he said. ‘Companies may be wasting a vast amount of money on written communications which are not reaching their target audiences.’ 
Dr Hanif, Clinical Director in diabetes and endocrinology at University Hospital Birmingham, cited examples of how word of mouth and experiential activities had proved successful in delivering health messages to South Asians.  
By 2051, nearly a third of the population in England and Wales will be black and minority ethnic people,[ii] making the whole country as diverse as London is now, Dr Hanif said.  
As these groups have a higher incidence of cardiovascular disease and obesity-related illness the growth of this population sector will have a huge effect on health services. However, a great deal of the disease risk could be reduced through lifestyle changes, Dr Hanif added. 
`What is clear is that companies need to tailor their communications activities sympathetically and effectively to engage these diverse and rapidly growing groups and not adopt a `one-size-fits-all’ approach,’ said Julia Harries, Director of Red Door Communication who hosted the event.  `Providing information is not enough for these communities, it has to be put into a relevant and culturally-sensitive context.’      

For a copy of the meeting report: Engaging with South Asians in the UK: Separating fact from fiction, please contact Julia Harries at Red Door Communications on 020 8392 8040 or email her at

[i] Office for National Statistics, Census data, 2011
[ii] The future ageing of the ethnic minority population of England and Wales, Centre for Policy on Ageing, 2010

12th June 2013