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Case Study: Listening to communities – conversations about heart health

Overall summary

NHS England commissioned Health Innovation Oxford & Thames Valley (HIN) to find out what people know and think about heart health. In particular, they wanted to hear from communities whose voices are seldom heard, and who appear to be at greater risk of heart health problems. During 2022 and 2023, the HIN has engaged three communities: Polish people in Birmingham, people who live in an area of multiple deprivation in Slough and people from a South Asian heritage who attend the Mosque in Banbury. We worked collaboratively with each community to design engagement approaches which were most likely to encourage people to share their thoughts. After each engagement activity, we analysed the results and fed back the results to the community and to local health partners.

What is the challenge

Heart disease is a major cause of illness and health inequalities. People’s risk can be significantly reduced through healthy life-style choices and appropriate care and treatment. However, not all people and communities have equitable access to the care they need. We wanted to find out what health professionals and communities can do together to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to reduce their risk of heart disease.

What did we do?

We worked collaboratively with each community group to organise bespoke engagement events. This approach was important because it allowed us to build trust with the community and to get the best possible level of engagement. We worked with three community groups (see below) and offered funding to each to ensure they had the capacity to deliver the work.

In Birmingham, we worked with the European Welfare Association to organise a survey among Polish parents whose children attend a Saturday morning language class. The parents were encouraged to complete the survey and offered a gift of Polish honey and apples in return.

In Slough, we worked with Slough Council for Voluntary Service to deliver a community lunch. Information was gathered through a combination of surveys and discussion, led by the local community.

In Banbury, we worked with Banbury Mosque to train community members to deliver the engagement activities and deliver two engagement events. Women’s views were gathered during a community lunch, and men’s views were gathered as men arrived and left the Mosque for Friday prayers. The Mosque created branded water bottles to offer as a thank you to those who completed the survey.

Once the data was gathered in each location, we analysed it and prepared a short report. This information has been fed back to each community and to local health colleagues.

What has been achieved?

This project heard the experiences of a diverse group of more than 200 people whose views are not always sought or listened to. The group includes people from a range of ethnicities: European, Black Caribbean, Black African and Asian. A large portion of participants were most comfortable using a language which is not English.

Around 30% of respondents from the Polish community, 40% of those from Banbury Mosque and a majority of those interviewed in Slough highlighted concerns about the support they can access to help them manage heart health. We heard that problems accessing GPs was a strong concern across all groups. Also, few people appeared to have been involved in decisions about their treatment. Some people described challenges in taking medication. Challenges in accessing sports and leisure facility was a concern for the women at Banbury Mosque.

However, many people reported that medication and changes in lifestyle had been helpful. For those who have made changes in lifestyle, walking and light exercise appeared to be more popular than changes to diet.

What next?

There were lots of ideas about next steps which we hope the communities and local health professionals can work on together:

  • Information & advice: easier access to professionals, talking to someone who can take the time to listen and answer questions, walk-in check-ups and regular “MOT” checks.
  • Social groups and befriending
  • Access to sports activities which are free or low cost and available outside of working hours
  • More nutritional advice
  • GP surgeries open outside of working hours


Dr Sian Rees, Director of Community Involvement and Workforce Innovation,