UK launches £25m ‘Community Champions’ scheme; will record ethnicity on death certificates

THE UK on Thursday(22) announced new measures to understand and tackle Covid-19 disparities experienced by individuals from an ethnic minority background.

As part of this a new ‘Community Champions’ scheme worth up to £25 million was launched to enhance existing communication strategies in the most at risk places, and fund work with grassroots advocates from impacted communities.

The scheme will also provide funding for voluntary and community groups who specialise in working with communities most at risk from Covid-19.

The government also introduced a new mandate for ethnicity to be recorded as part of the death certification process.

Besides, it appointed Dr Raghib Ali and Prof Keith Neal as advisors on Covid-19 and ethnicity. They will work alongside the Cabinet Office’s race disparity unit to provide advice and support to the government’s work.

Dr Raghib Ali

Dr Raghib Ali is a Senior Clinical Research Associate at the MRC Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge and the Director and Principal Investigator of the Public Health Research Center and Associate Research Professor at New York University, Abu Dhabi. He is also Adjunct Associate Professor in Public Health and Population Health at New York University.

Professor Keith Neal

Professor Keith Neal has 30 years’ experience controlling infectious diseases, such as SARS, MERS, swine flu and Ebola in the UK public health system. He also has 25 years of experience in the research of the epidemiology of infectious diseases at the University of Nottingham.

“Access to the latest public health information and protections should be available to everyone. To ensure that is the case we have invested in a strong package of measures to target messaging, develop the data we have available and make sure everyone is as safe as possible at home or in the workplace,” said Kemi Badenoch, minister for equalities.

“Today’s report marks an important first step in our journey to understand and tackle the disproportionate impact of Covid. I remain committed to doing everything possible to beat back this virus.”

An enhancement of the national Shielded Patients List to account for the increase in understanding of the risk factors related to the virus and the drivers of disparities is another measure taken by the government.

According to a statement, the UK provided £4.3m in funding for six new research projects to investigate links between Covid-19 and ethnicity.

Professor Sir Rory Collins, head of Nuffield department of population health and BHF Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology, said: “By bringing together relevant data from many different sources, this report will strengthen our understanding of the risk factors that are causing adverse outcomes for ethnic minority people when exposed to COVID-19.”

“It is vital that we understand the key drivers of the health disparities caused by Covid-19 and set out evidence-based, efficient action to tackle them,” said Dr Rohini Mathur, assistant professor of Epidemiology, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

“This report is a strong step on the path to doing this, highlighting important findings, dispelling damaging misinformation and presenting clear steps to address the impact of the virus on ethnic minority communities.”