"an alliance of BME networks and public service agencies dedicated to promoting fair services free of racial discrimination."

Proactive Communities

HSC BME Network’s Proactive Communities aims to support the wellness of local people with information and accessible therapies. Whist the project has a focus on the health and wellbeing of ethnic minority communities; we hope anyone seeking to maintain a healthy lifestyles will benefit from the information found here.
These pages are packed with ideas on making better lifestyle choices. They reference useful websites and you can click links to sources that may guide your search for useful information and treatments. Whatever your background we hope you and your community will make Proactive choices toward a vital and healthy lifestyle.

Eat Well & Exercise

Eating a healthy, balanced diet plays an essential role in maintaining a healthy weight, which is an important part of overall good health. Being overweight or obese can lead to health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, heart disease and stroke. Being underweight could also affect your health. Scientists and researchers agree that 90% of the degenerative diseases that afflict us today are diet and lifestyle related. What is even more frightening is that degenerative diseases are the increase and manifesting themselves in people earlier in life. There are many things in our diet and lifestyles that has led to this epidemic of ill health. Contrary to the fad diets that hit the headlines, you don’t have to give up all of your favourite foods or start training for a big race to improve your health. Over time, small changes to your eating, drinking, and physical activity habits can help you control your weight, feel better, and improve your health.

A Balanced Diet

A healthy, balanced diet can lower your risk of high blood pressure. A healthy balanced diet includes plenty of fruit and vegetables, potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and other starchy foods (choose wholegrain versions where possible). Some milk and dairy (choose lower-fat options). Some meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy sources of protein and just a small amount of foods and drinks that are high in fat or sugar. See 2016 Diet Reviews Click Here

Drink Water

We need to drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration – the government recommends 6-8 glasses every day. This is in addition to the fluid we get from the food we eat. All non-alcoholic drinks count, but water and lower-fat milk are healthier choices. Try to avoid sugary soft and fizzy drinks that are high in added sugars and calories, and are also bad for teeth. Even unsweetened fruit juice and smoothies are high in free sugar, so limit how much you drink to no more than one 150ml glass of fruit juice each day. When the weather is warm, or when we get active, we may need more fluids.

Cut Down on Saturated Fat

We all need some fat in our diet, but it's important to pay attention to the amount and type of fat we're eating. There are two main types of fat: saturated and unsaturated. Too much saturated fat can increase the amount of cholesterol in the blood, which increases your risk of developing heart disease. The average man should have no more than 30g saturated fat a day. The average woman should have no more than 20g saturated fat a day, and children should have less than adults. Be careful to eat fatty meats, fried foods, cream, butter and cheese in moderation.

Not Too Much Sugar

Sugars (like sucrose and high fructose corn syrup) contain a whole bunch of calories with NO essential nutrients. For this reason, they are called “empty” calories. There are no proteins, essential fats, vitamins or minerals in sugar… just pure energy. When you eat up to 10-20% of calories as sugar (or more), this can become a major problem and contribute to nutrient deficiencies. Sugar is also very bad for the teeth, because it provides easily digestible energy for the bad bacteria in the mouth. Foods such as cakes, pastries, biscuits, chocolate, and non-diet fizzy drinks should be considered as treats and eaten occasionally. These foods can be eaten in small amounts as part of a healthy, varied diet.

Tip - Don't Skip Breakfast

Some people skip breakfast because they think it will help them lose weight. In fact, research shows that eating breakfast can help with control weight gain.

Drink Sensibly

Drinking too much alcohol raises blood pressure. If you keep your alcohol intake within the healthy guidelines, the occasional drink will not increase blood pressure or stroke risk. Recommended limits are: two to three units a day for women three to four units a day for men

Eat Well for Less

In these straightened economic time everyone is having to tighten their belts. Gregg Wallace offers some handy tips for eating well within a budget .
1. Make a meal plan and stick to it
"When I started looking at the facts and figures, I realised that nowadays people are spending a comparatively similar amount on their shopping as they are on their mortgage,” says Gregg Wallace. Click Here

Look After Your Well Being

Get Active

Physical activity can help you to maintain weight loss or be a healthy weight. Being active doesn't have to mean hours at the gym: you can find ways to fit more activity into your daily life. For example, try getting off the bus one stop early on the way home from work, and walking. (Click Here click) ……Being physically active may help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. To lose weight, you should try to exercise three times a week for 30-60 minutes a day. But moving your body is good for a lot more than that. Find an activity you enjoy and just do it.
Regular exercise can :
  • Lower your blood sugar.
  • Boost your heart health.
  • Lower your blood pressure.
  • Help insulin work better in your body

Stop Smoking

Smoking doubles your risk of a stroke because it causes the arteries to become "furry" and makes the blood more likely to develop clots.
Click Here

Manage Stress

Here are some healthy ways to combat stress :
  • Do breathing and relaxation exercises.
  • Tense your muscles and then release them.
  • Go on a walk or jog.
  • Stretch.
  • Start a new hobby.
  • Replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
Good advice - Have fun, embrace playfulness it gives a whole lifestyle boost.
Click Here


Yoga is an ancient form of exercise that focuses on strength, flexibility and breathing to boost physical and mental wellbeing. The main components of yoga are postures (a series of movements designed to increase strength and flexibility) and breathing. The practice originated in India about 5,000 years ago, and has been adapted in other countries in a variety of ways. Yoga is now commonplace in leisure centres, health clubs, schools, hospitals and surgeries. Dozens of scientific trials of varying quality have been published on yoga. Most studies suggest yoga is a safe and effective way to increase physical activity, especially strength, flexibility and balance. There's some evidence that regular yoga practice is beneficial for people with high blood pressure, heart disease, aches and pains – including lower back pain – depression and stress.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness is a thought process that allows us to pay attention to, and see clearly what is happening in our lives. Whilst it cannot eliminate life’s pressures, it can be a good way to help people deal with them in a calmer manner that is beneficial to overall well-being. According to the NHS choices website, being more aware of the present moment can help us enjoy the world around us more and understand ourselves better. Mindfulness is a practical way to notice thoughts, sensations, sights, sounds and smells. Mindfulness can simply be described as choosing and learning to control our focus of attention. This is a very simple concept which originates from ancient Buddhist practice, but is essentially non-religious. Mindfulness is about being in the moment, not regretting the past or worrying about the future.
According to the NHS, studies have found that mindfulness programmes, where participants are taught mindfulness practices across a series of weeks, can bring about reductions in stress and improvements in mood. In short, everybody can benefit physically, emotionally and mentally from learning mindfulness techniques. It can contribute to greater peace of mind, better sleep and more productivity at work as well as to feeling happier or to having better relationships with others. Being more aware of the present moment can help people to enjoy the world around them and to develop a better understanding of themselves. As you begin to practice things in a mindful way you will feel calmer and more relaxed, and will have a greater concept of your surroundings and feelings. Click Here


Hypnosis can help improve deep sleep - In a recent study, Swiss researchers were able to measure its effects by monitoring brain activity in a group of healthy, young women as they took a 90-minute nap after listening to a hypnotic suggestion tape. The women who were deemed the most susceptible to hypnosis spent 80 percent more time in slow-wave sleep (the deep, restorative phase of sleep).
It can ease symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. In a 2003 study, 71 percent of 204 irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) patients reported improved symptoms after 12 weekly hour-long hypnosis sessions, the American Psychological Association reported.
Hot flashes - A 2013 study of postmenopausal women who reported at least 50 hot flashes a week, found that five, weekly hypnosis sessions cut hot flashes by 74 percent in 12 weeks.
Easing pain - Hypnosis is perhaps most well-researched in the context of managing pain. Two studies of existing pain and hypnosis research, published in 2000 and 2009, deemed hypnosis effective at lowering pain associated with a number of conditions, including fibromyalgia, arthritis and cancer.
Hypnosis can calm nerves - Because of its ability to harness the powers of the mind, hypnosis is often employed to relieve anxieties related to other medical procedures, like surgery, scans or even giving birth.
Click Here

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

CBT is based on the concept that your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and actions are interconnected, and that negative thoughts and feelings can trap you in a vicious cycle. CBT aims to help you deal with overwhelming problems in a more positive way by breaking them down into smaller parts. You're shown how to change these negative patterns to improve the way you feel. Unlike some other talking treatments, CBT deals with your current problems, rather than focusing on issues from your past. It looks for practical ways to improve your state of mind on a daily basis. CBT has been shown to be an effective way of treating a number of different mental health conditions.
In addition to depression or anxiety disorders, CBT can also help people with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, phobias. It is also helpful with eating disorders – such as anorexia and bulimia. Although CBT can't cure the physical symptoms of these conditions, it can help people cope better with their symptoms. Click Here

What Troubles Us

Kidney Disease

Black and south Asian people are three to five times more likely to have kidney failure than white people, but many are unaware of the condition. Many Black and South Asian people know about the higher prevalence of diabetes and high blood pressure in their communities, but they don't realise the direct link between these conditions and kidney failure. If you're at higher risk, visit your GP and ask to be examined for kidney disease. This will involve measuring your blood pressure and having a urine and blood test to see how well your kidneys are working. If you have diabetes or high blood pressure, you should be routinely tested anyway. For more information look up to Kidney Research UK (www.kidneyresearchuk.org), a national charity that raises awareness of kidney disease among Black and South Asian communities. Click Here


11.5 million people in the UK are at increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes due to their waist circumference or being overweight. Proactive Communities aims play its part in reducing the increase of diabetes by raising awareness of the risk factors associated with Type 2 diabetes. South Asian patients with diabetes are 10 times more likely to go on to have kidney failure than White Caucasians with diabetes (Kidney Research UK). So it's vital that diabetes and blood pressure in this group is well-controlled to reduce the likelihood of complications such as kidney damage. Click Here

High Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is the force that blood exerts on the walls of your arteries. If your blood pressure is high (hypertension), it puts you at greater risk of a stroke, heart attack and kidney problems. High blood pressure has no symptoms, so ask your doctor, nurse or pharmacist to check. If you discover high blood-pressure you might wish to buy a blood pressure monitors to monitor changes and help manage the condition.
Reduce salt intake: Often, when people with high blood pressure cut back on salt, their blood pressure falls. Cutting back on salt also prevents blood pressure from rising.
Reduce alcohol intake: Too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure. To help prevent high blood pressure, limit how much alcohol you drink.
Manage stress: Stress can make blood pressure go up, and over time may contribute to the cause of high blood pressure.

Eating certain nutrients may also help prevent high blood pressure. Here's a roundup of the research:
Potassium : Eating foods rich in potassium will help protect some people from developing high blood pressure. Many fruits, vegetables, dairy foods, and fish are good sources of potassium.
Calcium : Populations with low calcium intakes have high rates of high blood pressure. However, it has not been proven that taking calcium tablets will prevent high blood pressure. But it is important to be sure to get at least the recommended amount of calcium -- 1,000 milligrams per day for adults 19 to 50 years old and 1,200 mg for those over 50 (pregnant and breastfeeding women also need more) -- from the foods you eat. Dairy foods like low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese are good sources of calcium.
Magnesium : A diet low in magnesium may make your blood pressure rise. Magnesium is found in whole grains, green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, and dry peas and beans.
Fish Oils : A type of fat called "omega-3 fatty acids" is found in fatty fish like mackerel and salmon. Large amounts of fish oils may help reduce high blood pressure, but their role in prevention is unclear. Most fish, if not fried or made with added fat, is low in saturated fat and calories and can be eaten often.
Garlic: There has been some evidence to suggest garlic’s effect in lowering blood pressure, in addition to improving cholesterol and reducing some cancers. Further research is being conducted to fully assess garlic’s potential health benefits.


Professor Graham MacGregor of the Blood Pressure Association says, “it’s not fully understood why African Caribbean people are likely to have high blood pressure and therefore prone to strokes”. A stroke is a "brain attack". It happens when the blood supply to the brain is disrupted. This is often caused by a narrowing of blood vessels, which occurs due to a build-up of fatty material on the artery walls (atherosclerosis) or by blood clotting. Older people and those with high blood pressure, uneven heartbeat (atrial fibrillation), high cholesterol and diabetes also have a higher risk of stroke. We do know that a healthy diet, exercise and awareness can make a vital difference to preventing early death from stroke, heart attack or heart disease. Click Here


Thalassaemia is the name for a group of inherited conditions that affect a substance in the blood called haemoglobin. It mainly affects people of Mediterranean, South Asian, Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern origin. People with the condition produce either no or too little haemoglobin, which is used by red blood cells to carry oxygen around the body. This can make them very anaemic (tired, short of breath and pale). There are a number of types of thalassaemia, which can be divided into alpha and beta thalassaemias. Beta thalassaemia major is the most severe type. Other types include beta thalassaemia intermedia, alpha thalassaemia major and haemoglobin H disease. It's also possible to be a "carrier" of thalassaemia, also known as having the thalassaemia trait. Thalassaemia carriers don't have any serious health problems themselves, but are at risk of having children with the condition. People with thalassaemia major or other serious types will need specialist care throughout their lives. You can get useful information on treatment from UK Thalassemia Society Click Here

Sickle Cell Disease

Sickle Cell Disease is the name for a group of inherited conditions that affect the red blood cells. The most serious type is called sickle cell anaemia. Sickle cell disease mainly affects people of African, Caribbean, Middle Eastern, Eastern Mediterranean and Asian origin. In the UK, it's particularly common in people with an African or Caribbean family background. People with sickle cell disease produce unusually shaped red blood cells that can cause problems because they don't live as long as healthy blood cells and they can become stuck in blood vessels. Sickle cell disease is a serious and lifelong condition, although long-term treatment can help manage many of the problems associated with it.
A number of treatments are available to help manage problems caused by the condition. For example: painful episodes can sometimes be prevented by drinking plenty of fluids and staying warm. Pain can often be treated with ordinary painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, although sometimes treatment with stronger painkillers in hospital may be necessary. The risk of infections can be reduced by taking daily antibiotics and ensuring you're fully vaccinated. You can get very useful information from The Sickle Cell Society
Click Here

Mental Illness

There's nothing unusual or shameful about mental illness. Most of us have problems at some time in our lives, such as money worries, stress at work or the death of a loved one, which can affect our mental health. In a few cases, the effect can be serious and long-lasting. Around a quarter of all GP visits are for a mental health problem, usually anxiety or depression. But people from African and African Caribbean communities, including those of white and black mixed ethnicity, can face additional problems that may affect their mental health. Kathryn Hill of the Mental Health Foundation says many people don't trust health services. "Lots of people won't use health services until they're very unwell because they're frightened of what will happen. This means they're more likely to be in worse health by the time they do seek help". That means that looking after your mental health, as well as your family's and friends', is important. Seek help if things start to go wrong for you or those close to you.
Organisations like Mind and Black Mental Health UK are there to help.

Keloid Scars

Keloid scars can affect anyone, but they're more common in people with dark skin and it's thought they may run in families. Younger people between the ages of 10 and 30 are more likely to develop them. If you are prone to keloid scars you can't completely prevent them, but you can avoid any deliberate cuts or breaks in the skin, such as tattoos or piercings, including on the earlobes. Treating acne will reduce the likelihood of acne scars appearing.
There are several treatments available, but none have been shown to be more effective than others. Treatment can be difficult and isn't always successful. Treatments that may help flatten a keloid include:
  • steroid injections
  • applying steroid-impregnated tape for 12 hours a day
  • applying silicone gel sheeting for several months

Macular Degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a painless eye condition that causes you to lose central vision, usually in both eyes. Central vision is what you see when you focus straight ahead. In AMD, this vision becomes increasingly blurred, which means reading becomes difficult, colours appear less vibrant, people's faces are difficult to recognise. This sight loss usually happens gradually over time, although it can sometimes be rapid. AMD doesn't affect your peripheral vision (side vision), which means it will not cause complete blindness.
AMD currently affects more than 600,000 people in the UK and is the leading cause of vision loss. For reasons that are unclear, AMD tends to be more common in women than men. It's also more common in White and Chinese people. The condition is most common in people over the age of 50. It's estimated 1 in every 10 people over 65 have some degree of AMD. There's currently no cure for either type of AMD. With dry AMD, treatment aims to help a person make the most of their remaining vision – for example, magnifying lenses can be used to make reading easier.
There's some evidence to suggest a diet, rich in leafy green vegetables may slow the progression of dry AMD. Wet AMD can be treated with anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) medication. This aims to stop your vision getting worse by preventing further blood vessels developing. In some cases, laser surgery can also be used to destroy abnormal blood vessels. The early diagnosis and treatment of wet AMD is essential for reducing the risk of severe vision loss. Regular eye-tests are essential to catch the condition in its early stages.
Click Here

Oral Health

There is some evidence from surveys to suggest differences in the way certain black and minority ethnic groups utilise dental services compared to the general population. Oral (mouth) cancer is a term used for cancer of different sites in the mouth. It is the 15th most common cancer in the UK but its incidence is increasing. The risk factors for oral cancer include tobacco, alcohol and diet (Cancer Research, 2012). Studies conducted in South Asia suggest chewing betel quid and areca nut use to be the primary cause of the very high incidence of pre-cancer and oral cancer observed there.
In the UK, people of Bangladeshi origin are the most likely to chew betel quid with an estimated 9% of men and 16% of women using smokeless tobacco. Likewise, a study by Scambler (2010) highlighted the role of diet within the culture of Hasidic Jews in north London as an important risks to oral health. With clear links between sweets, rewards and religious ceremonies, it was felt that among some communities there was “a reluctance to admit the full impact of diet on oral disease”.
Several studies conducted in London have suggested that certain black and minority ethnic groups may be more inclined to take a “symptom-oriented” view of visiting the dentist, rather than for regular check-ups. These groups include Bangladeshi and Vietnamese communities. It is important to brush your teeth twice a day preferably with fluoride toothpaste. Floss between your teeth use an interdental brush every day to remove food, debris and plaque lodged between your teeth. Cut down on sugar and adopt a healthy lifestyle, including eating well, not smoking and limiting your alcohol intake. Have regular check-ups with your dentist. Don't put off going for a check-up - detecting problems early can mean they're easier to treat. If problems are not treated, they may lead to damage that is harder, or even impossible, to repair.

Female Genital Mutilation

FGM is a procedure where the female genitals are deliberately cut, injured or changed, but where there's no medical reason for this to be done. It's also known as "female circumcision" or "cutting", and by other terms such as sunna, gudniin, halalays, tahur, megrez and khitan.
FGM is usually carried out on young girls between infancy and the age of 15, most commonly before puberty starts. It is illegal in the UK and is child abuse. It's very painful and can seriously harm the health of women and girls. It can also cause long-term problems with sex, childbirth and mental health. Help and support is available if you've had FGM or you're worried that someone may be at risk.

FGM is illegal in the UK. It is an offence to:
  • perform FGM (including taking a child abroad for FGM)
  • help a girl perform FGM on herself in or outside the UK
  • help anyone perform FGM in the UK
  • help anyone perform FGM outside the UK on a UK national or resident
  • fail to protect a girl for whom you are responsible from FGM

What to do about FGM
If someone is in danger, contact the police immediately by dialling 999. If you're concerned that someone may be at risk, contact the NSPCC helpline on 0800 028 3550 or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Worried about FGM Click Here

Health & Social Care BME Network

The Network is a community organisation whose membership is made up of doctors, nurses and health professionals who are dedicated to promoting the well-being of minority ethnic communities.

Proactive Communities

Proactive Communities is a Big Lottery funded project designed to engage local people in active lifestyles and inform them about healthy living choices for their families and communities. The project will be rolled out in London Borough of Sutton during 2017 and consist of:
  • Three Workshops to train a group of 30 Proactive Communities Champions. These volunteers will be taught to engage communities in healthy living activities like Ta Chi, walking buses for elders, park runs etc.
  • A Proactive Communities Fair on Sutton High Street in the summer with health experts and well-being practitioners who will give advice and offer treatments on a walk-in basis for a whole day.
For more information about the Network and Proactive Communities check out our website www.nhsbmenetwork.com or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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