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Preventing Type 2 diabetes in partnership with the Muslim community

Maqsood Ahmad, Chief Executive of the British Muslim Heritage Centre explains how partnership working with NHS England and NHS Improvement and Diabetes UK has helped to train Imams and influencers in the Greater Manchester Muslim community to spread the message about type 2 diabetes prevention:

I joined the Centre in April 2019 having previously worked in the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership. As a committed Muslim with a background in health I wanted to put my efforts into work to reduce health inequalities experienced by my community.

South Asians are more likely to have type 2 diabetes compared to other groups. But many South Asians themselves are unaware of this fact, unaware of the signs and symptoms of diabetes or how to prevent developing diabetes in the first place.

We started by meeting with our Muslim community, just before lockdown, through our Tackling Diabetes Seminar, held with 80 people from South Asian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities. What we learnt was that there is an appetite from these communities to learn more about diabetes but in a way that’s meaningful to us and delivered in a way that is accessible.

Conversations with Krista Williams from the Greater Manchester Strategic Clinical Network helped to galvanise my thoughts and ideas about how to reach out to the Muslim community. It stemmed from my experience that my mother would listen to the Imam rather than to me!!

And so together with Yvonne Brown from Diabetes UK, funded by the Diabetes Programme at NHSEI, the Greater Manchester Muslim Diabetes Project was born. The project reached out to Muslims through community influencers such as prominent female managers, Imams and cultural community centre managers using the teachings of the prophets to facilitate positive lifestyle changes and improve health and wellbeing.

There are many positives that came out of our project:

  • We mapped all Greater Manchester’s Muslim Community Centres, Muslim Groups and Mosques and produced a GM Muslim Organisations Directory.
  • We established a Greater Manchester Imam’s Network to help us to deliver the key diabetes prevention messages. Developed with Imams and women influencers a Training Pack, English, Bengali and Urdu, based on the teachings of the Quran and practical actions of the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH). A khutbah narrative is included for Imams to use as part of their sermons after Friday prayers.
  • Trained 50 influencers to deliver diabetes training to community groups and individuals at a local level for women and for mixed groups. A total of 49 people 25 women and 24 men were trained as trainers. Trainers are supported to cascade the training into Muslim communities across Greater Manchester with some peer-to-peer support.  Training being carried out in Bengali and Urdu targeting older people who struggle with English.
  • Promoted key messages to Muslim community via heritage media. Heritage Radio discussed and debated the project as well as having NHS professionals and participants to attend to speak on their experience to increase listeners awareness of diabetes.

As the project ran throughout the pandemic, we utilised digital platforms. The new way of working was a challenge especially for elder Muslim communities not used to using Zoom, but training was provided in order for them to take part. The Pandemic was an opportunity to engage with the Muslim community differently and enhance their skills and experience for using digital means.

We were very pleased to recently host Dr Bola Owolabi, Director – Health Inequalities at NHSEI who met some of the Imams and women in the community that have been trained as part of the project. We are very proud that Bola’s visit was turned into a short film in order to showcase our project as an exemplar in working with communities to help reduce health inequalities.

The next step is to obtain resources to sustain and continue the project and delivery mechanism to its next phase to further tackle health inequalities focusing on prevention and wellbeing and other long-term conditions (Stroke, CVD, Mental Health) that have an impact on diabetes.

Maqsood Ahmad

Maqsood Ahmad, Chief Executive Officer, British Muslim Heritage Centre.

Maqsood joined the British Muslim Heritage Centre in April 2019 as the Chief Executive Officer, from Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP). He was the senior manager responsible for mental health, dementia, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases (CVD). He also brings with him experience as a cohort director for the Nye Bevan Leadership Programme for the University of Manchester.

Maqsood pervious posts prior to HSCP include: Home Office, Head of Equalities for Policing. He led on programmes on behalf of Home Secretaries, Policing Ministers and Home Office Policy Directors. National Offender Management Service (NOMS): Strategic Director for Diversity, Equality and Communications, Maqsood was instrumental in developing the Inclusion Directorate. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC): Assistant Inspector of Constabulary. Maqsood led on the equality and diversity inspections. Inspected all the 43 police forces and made major recommendations that contributed towards increasing the confidence of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) in policing.