The phrase, “black and minority ethnic” (BME) encompasses the shorter term “migrant”. The term migrant includes, those who have left their country of birth to reside elsewhere, asylum-seekers, refugees, victims of human trafficking, displaced people and returnees. The term ethnic minority includes those traditionally settled ethnic minority communities regarded by themselves or others as distinct from the majority population in terms of their origin, culture, or collective identity. Both terms refer to black and minority ethnic communities traditionally settled in Northern Ireland and those more recently arrived from outside the UK/ROI who have come to live and work across Northern Ireland.
The 2011 Census counted 80,760 individuals born outside the UK/ROI and 31,113 individuals of non-White ethnic background (4.5% and 1.72% of the total 1.8m NI population, respectively).
In the main, the majority of newcomers have no greater health needs than those of the general population. But issues can arise as a result of difficulties encountered in trying to settle in a new country.
Many minority ethnic communities have close social networks and strong cultural beliefs and practices, which can promote health and social wellbeing. However, some health issues and risk factors for ill health are more prevalent in minority ethnic communities. There is a need for more local data collection and monitoring of ethnicity and race categories across health and social care and other sectors in order to provide more accurate data to inform targeted action to address health inequalities.
Recent international, UK and some local studies have identified the following as priority health and social wellbeing issues: access to health care; racism and racial harassment; adult health; health protection; children’s health; women’s health; mental health; carer’s issues; poverty; housing; homelessness; and groups with complex needs.
The following have been identified as some of the difficulties encountered by minority ethnic communities in trying to access health and social care services:
- Language difficulties;
- Lack of awareness and lack of appropriate information on the services available;
- The need for a permanent address in order to register with a General Practitioner;
- Fears about entitlement to health care;
- Difficulty in coming to grips with a health care system that is different to what exists in their country of origin;
- The failure of some services to meet migrants’ cultural or religious needs;
- Institutional racism and the negative attitudes of some health care staff; and
- Immigration restrictions.
The Public Health Agency
The Public Health Agency, in collaboration with others, currently supports a range of programmes to promote minority ethnic and migrant health and social wellbeing improvement. One partnership initiative is the regional Northern Ireland New Entrant Service (NINES), a holistic service which provides an introduction to health and social care in NI, signposting and onward referral, in addition to comprehensive health assessments, screening, immunisation and health promotion for new immigrants and families. This service which is in the Bradbury Wellbeing and Treatment Centre, 1-17 Lisburn Road, Belfast BT9 7AA is delivered by the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.
Stronger Together Network
Another initiative is the Stronger Together Network which provides a regional forum for sharing information and good practice and for building knowledge and skills relating to holistic BME health and social wellbeing across the community and voluntary, health and social care and other sectors within NI. Stronger Together can be accessed online www.strongertogetherni.org