One of our consultant community paediatricians, Dr Joanne Brooks has won an award for her selfless work to improve healthcare in marginalised ethnic communities.
Jo was awarded second place in the Frontline Service Award category from RISE - a not-for-profit social enterprise which celebrates role models addressing social and economic inequalities in black and other minority ethnic communities.
Jo is based at our Kingswood Locality Hub and cares for children and young people with disabilities and long-term conditions. She was recognised for her community work as well as her voluntary role as co-chair of the Bristol Race Equality Covid-19 Steering Group.
The Bristol-wide initiative, which comprises numerous diverse voluntary organisations, was set up in the height of the pandemic due to rising Covid cases and the disproportionate impact of Covid on people from marginalised ethnic communities.
Jo said: “It was clear as Covid cases were rising that it was these communities which were more likely to get Covid and more likely to have severe long-term difficulties afterwards.
“The steering group was very effective in getting help and support where it was needed and encouraging adults to get vaccinated. It provided many opportunities for people to access information-sharing events, both online at the height of the Covid pandemic, and more recently, face to face.
“We delivered vaccines at churches, mosques and local community centres across Bristol. I met parents and children and answered questions about Covid and any other health concerns they had.”
The steering group is the first of its kind in the UK. Although it was set up because of rising Covid cases, the group is continuing its life-changing work to empower communities and to improve access to healthcare across the city.
Jo added: “These initiatives are ongoing. I continue to get invitations to attend events to speak to parents who might not have access to healthcare information. As a team, we empower people in marginalised communities to take responsibility for their health and to access health support.
“The steering group has so much potential to address health inequalities. We’re the first in the UK to have this model. It started in Bristol. Our work will inform the Integrated Care Board (ICB) so ultimately, lessons learnt can be shared across North Somerset and South Gloucestershire also.”
One of the most pivotal outcomes from the group to date is the establishment of the Independent Advisory Group. This group will be made up of members from marginalised ethnic communities with the lived experience of health challenges.
These expert patients and organisations will advise the Bristol North Somerset and South Gloucestershire ICB to enable the board to make more informed decisions when planning and delivering healthcare for marginalised ethnic communities.
Jo said: “The group will feed into decision-making at the very highest level. Members will have input into health and social decisions which affect these marginalised communities. It will make subsequent planning more relevant and intentional.”
Jo is also an Ambassador for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, which works with the ICB Childrens’ Leads to ensure the voices and needs of children and young people are heard when planning their healthcare.
Speaking about her award, Jo said: “I’m so excited. It recognises my individual work in the community but also the work the team is doing to help and support communities across the city of Bristol. So, it’s great news for Sirona but it’s also great news for the Bristol Race Equality Covid-19 Steering Group.
“The work I do is very rewarding. It is hugely motivating to know that my team and I are making such a positive difference. Making a difference to communities ultimately makes a difference to families, children and young people, which is what Sirona is all about.”
Julie Sharma, Sirona’s Interim Chief Executive, said: “It is an amazing achievement and so well deserved. Jo is dedicated both inside and outside of work to supporting people and promoting equalities. Her commitment to Sirona and the children, young people and families across our area really makes a difference and we are all so proud that she has received this national recognition.”