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Clinician helping Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities to access health support

By 24th June 2024No Comments

Wellbeing Lead and Health Visitor Miranda Thrift is helping Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities in Bristol and South Gloucestershire to improve their physical and emotional health by running awareness sessions on traveller sites.

Miranda, a Wellbeing Lead for South Gloucestershire and Bank Specialist Health Visitor for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Families, has started running women’s cancer awareness sessions in South Gloucestershire.

The awareness sessions are part of the Wellbeing Service’s work to improve access to healthcare across all communities.

Miranda was part of the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire (BNSSG) Mobile Mass Vaccination Team which vaccinated the gypsy and traveller community, including the homeless and vehicle dwellers, during the Covid pandemic. Through this programme, she built up a rapport with the communities which has enabled her to share important public health messages with them.

She said: “The communities face so many barriers which prevents them from accessing health appointments which means they have lower life expectancy, and they are more likely to get chronic conditions at an earlier age.

“Barriers include discrimination, fear, a lack of knowledge and digital and literacy difficulties. Some health conditions, including cancer and mental health are taboo subjects, so health promotion needs to be a sensitive, creative approach.

“I helped to vaccinate gypsy and traveller communities during the pandemic, so I have built trusting relationships and respect, and this has helped me to become an advocate and work in partnership with the communities to give them a voice.”

After talking to some of the residents at a local gypsy and traveller site, Miranda decided to run some small, informal sessions on cancer awareness. She said: “I asked the women how they wanted it delivered, so I’m just going to be guided by them.

“In the first session they want to talk about breast awareness and mammograms and the second session will be about cervical cancer awareness. I’ve also discussed with a male colleague about how we can talk about cancer screening with the males in a culturally sensitive manner if they would like the support. I will be directed by them.

“I worked with our Adult Learning Disability Team to borrow resources and videos as well as easy to read leaflets.”

Miranda has also been liaising with other teams in Sirona to help members of the community with chronic conditions and mental health issues.

She said: “I have been linking up with other specialist health teams to talk about how we can support people in these communities with long-term conditions. The communities are often unaware of these preventative services or how to access them.

“I also arranged for Sirona’s community mental health team to go on site with me. Mental health is a taboo subject within the community, but I think the visit on site will ripple through the community through word of mouth and help to raise awareness of the support that’s out there.”

Miranda’s work with Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities is an example of the inclusion health work which will be taking place as part of a new Maximising Access Programme which is due to be launched across Sirona care & health later this year.