North East women share their experiences of ethnic health inequalities

Women from ethnic minority groups in the North East say the time has come to take action against inequalities within the health sector. 

Their campaign comes ahead of the release of a new women's health strategy, in which the government will set out strategies to provide appropriate support for women.

It's a strategy that black and Asian women from across the North East welcome as they feel they have been ignored by the sector. 

According to a report by MBRRACE UK, black women are four times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth in the UK, and stillbirth is twice as likely to occur in black women compared to white women. 

Meanwhile, a report from the National Library of Medicine highlights South Asians have 40% higher death rates from coronary heart disease. 

Fareeha Usman from Morpeth, Northumberland has fibromyalgia, a condition that causes severe pain across the body. Fareeha says factors such as language barriers have led to a difficult experience when it comes to receiving the healthcare support she needs.

Fareeha says her needs aren't properly understood. Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

She said: "When you are going through such a difficult health challenge and you have to explain your story again and again - the amount of pressure it builds on your emotional structure is too much."

Fareeha has a language barrier which has made her less confident in approaching her GP because she says they often don't understand her needs. 

She is calling on the government to provide better accessibility and support for women of diverse backgrounds. 

Kate Pickett, an epidemiologist from the University of York studies differences in health between different groups in the population. She says this is a wide ranging problem for women from all kinds of ethnic minority backgrounds. 

She said: "They have difficulties in accessing care. I think they have difficulties in accessing quality, responsive care when they do access care and I think there's a complex range of problems that they face.

"We know that there are fewer doctors in more deprived areas in the UK and that means for women from many minority backgrounds there are fewer GPs for them to access in the first place."

In a statement, the government said: "We are committed to tackling the gender health gap, and the publication of our women’s health strategy later this year will mark a significant step forward.

"Our call for evidence is heard directly from women to understand their experiences of the health and care system, so we can make sure women’s voices are at the centre of the strategy and feel comfortable talking about their health.

"We will be publishing a white paper this year, which will set out bold action to tackle long-standing health disparities – including racial and ethnic disparities – so that people’s backgrounds do not dictate their prospects for a healthy life."