Striving to improve healthcare for South Asian communities | Our news

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Striving to improve healthcare for South Asian communities

This South Asian Heritage Month, Barts Health NHS Trust is encouraging Bangladeshi and Pakistani people to take part in a research study aiming to improve their health by better understanding their genetics.

East London Genes & Health is looking at the DNA of 100,000 people of Bangladeshi and Pakistani origin and linking it securely and anonymously with their health records. By doing this, the team aim to better understand conditions like diabetes and heart disease which are very common among South Asian communities and in turn, find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat them.

“It’s really easy to get involved”, says Shabana Qadir, a councillor in Waltham Forest who has taken part in the study and is also a patient representative for it. “I was a bit nervous about it at first but then I thought about how it could benefit me, my family and my community.”

Shabana’s nephew has thalassemia major, a genetic condition which is common among the South Asian community. “When my nephew was diagnosed the condition made me want to know and understand more about it, why it’s common in my community and to try and do something to help those with it. That’s why I decided to take part in Genes & Health – to educate myself and to help my nephew and future generations.”

Taking part is quick and easy – simply visit the Genes & Health website, complete two forms and provide a saliva (spit) sample, or visit one of the study’s stalls which will be popping up across our hospitals this week and next. The research team will then analyse the DNA in the sample to look for changes that might be linked to health conditions.

“The information we gather from testing these samples is stored safely and securely by our team and acts as a resource for high quality research by local and international research teams”, explains Dr Sarah Finer, a diabetes consultant who co-leads the study with Professor David van Heel.

“Genes & Health puts the spotlight on east London,and brings the world’s best researchers to make important discoveries. Our community advisory panel works in partnership with us to ensure all of our research delivers back to our local communities’. The panel are amazing and are vital to shaping our research and determining what our priorities are. We won’t get involved in a research project if they don’t think it will be of benefit.”

The study is already delivering positive results, with nearly 30 publications coming from it so far. From identifying a gene that’s linked to childhood growth and puberty, to using genes to predict which young people may get type 2 diabetes and driving our understanding of Covid-19, the Genes & Health study is making big strides in addressing and overcoming the health inequalities and inequities that exist for Bangladeshi and Pakistani people, which will ultimately improve their health outcomes.

If you want to join over 56,000 people who have already joined Genes & Health, visit the website or meet the team at Barts Health hospitals during South Asian Heritage Month (this week and next). 

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