Published On: Mon, Oct 1st, 2012

African Communities UK tackle Health

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A moving account of one woman’s near fatal battle with Breast Cancer was the climax of a surreal evening at the House of Commons on Tuesday evening.


Leoboa Kureya a mother of four who came to the UK 30years ago from Zimbabwe, is a rare character who has survived cancer of the breast in what can be described as dramatic. She was among the key speakers at a forum organised by the African Health Policy Network –AHPN- and held at the House of Commons courtesy of Mr. Richard Fuller MP.

Having discovered a lump beneath her armpit at the age of 49, Mrs Kureya partly credits her survival to the quick-thinking of her daughter who dismissed traditional African perceptions to get her mother to go through the process of clinical assessment and consequent operation to remove the malignant tumour.

Apart from her family Mrs Kureya thanks the medical system in the UK that enabled her to be fast tracked from diagnosis to operation.  The Doctors she noted were very kind and understanding explaining every stage to her amid a barrage of cultural assumptions such as a relative who suggested it was just an accumulation of milk following her giving birth to twins and could be managed by constant squeezing and kneading.

Most of what she described was in line with the theme of the topic of the day – ‘Health Inequalities and African Communities.’  Other speakers on the day were Isaac Kute, Chair of AHPN Board of Trustees, who gave an outline on Health Inequalities and African Communities in England, Dr. Ike Anya a Consultant in Public Health Medicine touching on Mortality and Morbidity detailed some statistics that show people of Somali descent and the Congolese Lingala speakers are the most deprived in the African Communities in England.

Angela Tella, a nutritionist with Illumina Lifestyle Consulting spoke on Nutrition, Cancer, Diabetes and Stroke, a talk that brought out interesting options that are also deemed as barriers to African Communities accessing Healthy alternatives.

The issue of obesity was the most paradoxical in the analogy with the suggestion that for most African women, this comes into consideration only from size 20 and above. This is so because Africans prefer their women well rounded and even further, the typical African dress favours those with rounded bodies and that those in sizes 14 and below may not look nice.  Men are flattered when they walk round with a woman on the bigger side, as a thinner woman may indicate she is not well-fed.

In summation Francis Kaikumba, CEO of AHPN, reiterated the key factors that came up from the various speakers that largely contribute to the health inequalities facing African Communities in England.  These included; language barriers, negative attitudes, superstitions, traditional beliefs and stigmatisation.

It is a paramount objective for AHPN to improve the health and wellbeing of UK’s African population, by influencing health policies to ensure the health needs of minority communities are addressed in a meaningful way.  As part of its health policy focus, AHPN aims at reducing health inequalities and improving health outcomes using a culturally appropriate approach.

Priority health conditions for the organisation’s work include; HIV and Sexual Health, tuberculosis, Cancer, Diabetes, Stroke, Mental Health.

High blood pressure according to Mr. Kaikumba is another potential killer within the African communities.  In all these, the need to educate the African Communities is crucial. The Media has been called upon to help towards achieving this goal, as creating awareness is critical.

Young people must be encouraged to adopt positive attitudes.

Concluding the sitting on a high note MP Richard Fuller acknowledged that AHPN was an irreplaceable Network.

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African Communities UK tackle Health
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