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Wednesday, 7 August, 2002, 14:41 GMT 15:41 UK
Ethnic minorities 'are dying younger'
Asians
Many people in ethnic communities work long hours
People from ethnic minorities in Scotland are dying earlier than their white counterparts - and the gap is growing.

Figures have shown that the average lifespan of those from ethnic communities is already more than a decade shorter and is continuing to decrease.

At the same time the average lifespan of white Scots is on the rise.


People from ethnic minority backgrounds are a bit anxious about taking up services that are in place

Anne Taylor
Health promotion officer
Now the NHS is being urged to do more to improve the health of ethnic minorities in Scotland.

The life expectancy for white Scots is currently 78 years for women and 73 for men.

However, those figures fall to 65 and 62 respectively for those of Pakistani origin living in the country, and drop to an average of 58 for Indian men.

The reasons for this gap are thought to include lifestyle factors and the language barrier.

Isaac Umeed, a health promotion officer with the Greater Glasgow NHS Trust, said people came to Scotland to improve their social and economic status rather than for health reasons.

Work pattern

"A lot of attention is put on working, for example, 16 to 18 hours a day, seven days a week.

"That is the work pattern of most of the south Asian men, and perhaps most Asian women as well.

"Health is at the bottom of their priorities," he said.

Tablets
Prescribed drugs can cause problems
Anne Taylor, a health promotion officer for Greater Glasgow Primary Care NHS Trust, said language presented a "major problem" for those from ethnic minorities.

"It is well known that people from ethnic minority backgrounds are a bit anxious about taking up services that are in place and don't like screening.

"Certain diseases, like diabetes, are a lot higher in the Asian community than in the indigenous population.

"If we want to make any impact at all on preventing the complications of diabetes then it is important that those patients do come along for screening."

Figures complied by Greater Glasgow NHS Trust suggested that south east Asian women run four times the risk of cervical cancer - largely because they find the prospect of a smear test performed in English too daunting.

Information and facilities

They also suggested that the rates of death from heart disease can be up to 46% higher for Asian women and 36% higher for men.

Meanwhile, people in black and Asian communities develop type two diabetes 10 years earlier than their white counterparts.

Another common risk comes from adverse drug reactions when people are prescribed several medicines without knowing how to take them.

The Reach project in Glasgow provides information and facilities for people from ethnic minorities.

Community needs

It also has a pharmacist who can explain how medication should be used properly.

Its chairwoman Shehla Ihsan said the NHS in Scotland should recognise the work done by voluntary and community-based organisations.

"They have access into the community and have a deeper understanding of the community's needs," she said.

"It could work by bringing the services into these organisations and through to the access points that are more easy for people to access - and that people would want to access."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Health correspondent Eleanor Bradford
"In the west of Scotland south Asian women run four times the risk of developing cervical cancer"
See also:

05 Dec 01 | Scotland
24 Jan 01 | Health
07 Mar 00 | Scotland
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