Fitness taster sessions delivered to Leicestershires Traveller Community

NIHR CLAHRC East Midlands, a regional health research organisation tasked with speeding up the adoption of science to the frontline of the NHS, organised a series of events during Gypsy Roma and Traveller History Month, which takes place each year throughout June.

The sessions were held to address some of the concerns members of the Traveller community highlighted at a community engagement event in January.

Physical inactivity, obesity, access to screening services and the limited cultural competencies of healthcare practitioners were some of the issues raised.

The work was part funded by the University of Leicester-Wellcome ISSF.  The Institutional Strategic Support Fund (ISSF) enables universities in the UK and Ireland to invest in areas that are of mutual strategic importance to Wellcome and the individual institutions. These are within and across medical and clinical sciences, public health, social sciences and medical humanities.

Gypsies, Roma and Travellers are the largest ethnic minority community in the European Union with over 12 million people across the EU and some 300,000 in the UK. They are very marginalised and suffer extreme levels of prejudice and discrimination. There are at least 2,000 Gypsy and Travellers living in Leicestershire across approximately 70 sites.

Professor Kamlesh Khunti is the Director of CLAHRC East Midlands and is also Professor of Primary Care Diabetes and Vascular Medicine at Leicester.

Professor Khunti said: “Over the last few weeks, we have been working with Gypsies and Travellers from the local area by visiting and taking provision to sites. This work has encouraged the community to take a greater role in deciding what type of health interventions would be most culturally accessible considering their lifestyles and community dynamics.”

One attendee said: “I really enjoyed the event, lots of useful information and I was able to check my diabetes risk.”

Another added: “I’m always concerned about my children’s teeth. Talking to the lady from the oral heath team really helped me to understand better how to look after my teeth and my family.”

Information was provided about oral health, holistic therapies, stop smoking services, and the diabetes risk score.

One activity which proved to be popular was a female only yoga session. Participants reported feeling better both physically and emotionally after attending. It also provided the opportunity for members of the community to have time away from home in an atmosphere where they felt they could relax.

Other planned activities include a healthy walk and diabetes awareness sessions.

NIHR CLAHRC East Midlands is collaboration of the NHS, universities, patients and industry, which sets out to improve patient outcomes by conducting research of local relevance and international quality.