A photograph of a Talk Cancer workshop interpreted in Urdu that we ran in Middlesborough, in partnership with Nur FitnessTalking about cancer has the power to save lives.

1 in 2 of us will get cancer in our lifetime, but around 4 in 10 cases of cancer in the UK could be prevented. Equipping people with the skills to talk about cancer and health will help us beat cancer sooner.

Our cancer awareness training programme, Talk Cancer, aims to help reduce health inequalities by prioritising training in locations where more people are affected by cancer. The training empowers people to have impactful conversations with people in the community about reducing cancer risk, the importance of early diagnosis and the national screening programmes.

It focuses on small changes people can control to reduce their risk of developing cancer and how to spot the possible early signs.

The training includes information on factors that can make it challenging to make healthy changes such as access to health services; healthy, affordable food and green spaces. It’s important to highlight these factors as people may feel motivated to improve their health but are faced with barriers that are out of their control. As a charity, we have committed to reduce cancer inequalities through our work and partnerships, and to engage people in ways that are inclusive, relevant and accessible.

Working in partnership

Bradford District and Craven Health and Care Partnership (what used to be called Bradford District and Craven Clinical Commissioning Group) identified late cancer presentations and low uptake of cancer screening programmes within their population. Since 2018, we have been working with the Bradford District and Craven Health and Care Partnership to deliver information on cancer awareness through our Talk Cancer training programme. We have delivered training to key community groups to improve knowledge and awareness on cancer and health, and facilitate positive conversations within their community about cancer.

We initially delivered workshops to frontline health staff, community engagement workers and volunteers, so they could share the information and have further conversations about cancer and health in the Bradford community. One workshop included British Sign Language (BSL), interpreted by Bradford Talking Media.

BSL is the most common sign language, but as a language it is not dependent upon or related to English. This makes access to health information difficult as there is a lack of resources translated to BSL. A lot of learnings gained from these workshops helped to inform some of the content for the planned interpreted workshops in the community.

Workshop evaluation conducted by the Bradford District and Craven Health and Care Partnership and Health Focus explored the long-term outcomes of the workshops 2 to 12 months after training and found that:

  • 97% of the trainees reported that they are talking to others about cancer more, because of attending the training
  • 70% had undertaken some form of cancer awareness raising initiative in their community or workplace

One recommendation from the evaluation was to work with key groups in the community who face extra barriers to health information due to language and specific beliefs. This was important for the Bradford District and Craven Health and Care Partnership, so we worked on a new offering of interpreted workshops in Punjabi and Urdu for South-Asian communities.

A new offering of interpreted workshops

Following the recommendation, the interpreted workshops ran between February and March 2022, when it was safe to hold face-to-face training after the COVID-19 pandemic.

To help engage the audience and encourage attendance for the interpreted workshops, we ran 12 workshops in local communities in the Bradford district.

The workshops were held in eight community centres, with a mixture of gender-specific and joint groups. The community centres selected were based on groups that met regularly, ensuring the environment was familiar and easily accessible.

Working collaboratively with the Bradford District and Craven Health and Care Partnership and Enable2, who interpreted the workshops, we tailored the workshop content to be relevant and culturally sensitive. For example, when discussing tobacco as a risk factor, we provided information on the impacts of shisha use, which is more prevalent in some South Asian communities than the general population.

What a fabulous training. Really enjoyed it. I was impressed with the way the nurses and interpreters delivered the training. They put it across in a way that we could understand. It wasn’t too much to digest. The workshop has given me knowledge and awareness of cancer. I now feel confident talking about cancer to others. I will encourage others to look out for early signs and take actions before it’s too late.

Talk Cancer interpreted workshop trainee

Impact of the interpreted workshops

There are inequalities at every stage of the cancer pathway and these all contribute to stark differences in cancer incidence, experience of treatment, and survival. For example, it’s estimated that across the UK there are more than 30,000 extra cases of cancer linked to socio-economic deprivation. Health, access to care, and healthcare quality varies between groups of people (for example between people of different ethnicity, sexual orientation, or occupational group).

The population of Bradford is ethnically diverse, with the largest proportion of people of Pakistani ethnic origin (20%) in England. Life expectancy is lower than the England average and screening uptake is low.

By running interpreted workshops with the Bradford District and Craven Health and Care Partnership, we’re able to work with groups who face extra barriers to health information including language barriers and with people who can share information with others living in their community.

People in the targeted communities for the workshops often rely on one another as trusted sources of information. Giving participants accurate information so they can cascade it to others strengthens and promotes actions in the heart of communities. It helps to create supportive environments for people to have impactful conversations about cancer and health.

“We knew that it was vital to make the workshops accessible to more of our population and we’ve worked with Cancer Research UK’s Talk Cancer team and Enable2 to make this a reality – not just translating the content, but adapting the information to be culturally appropriate and to address the questions and concerns of our South Asian communities,” says Victoria Simmons, Senior Head of Communications and Engagement, Bradford District and Craven Health and Care Partnership

“By working closely with interpreters and community organisations, these workshops have reached into communities that are too often excluded and will hopefully have a ‘ripple effect’ to spread accurate information about cancer that will have a real impact on health outcomes.”

Award finalist

The interpreted workshops have helped increase cancer awareness in a community where English isn’t some people’s first language and access to health information is limited.

The interpreted workshops have also been recognised in the Royal Society of Public Health’s, Health and Wellbeing awards 2022. We’re a finalist in the Community Development category!

Being a finalist showcases the importance of how the interpreted workshops improve the health of the community in a way that contributes to long lasting change.

The collaboration between multiple organisations meant that each organisation brought their expertise, insights, and passion to help drive this project, whilst ensuring that the community remain at the heart of it.

The issue of health inequalities is complex and multi-faceted – there’s much more we can do, and no one intervention is enough on its own. But through these interpreted cancer workshops, we’re taking significant steps to making information about cancer and health more accessible and inclusive.

Get involved:

If you’re able to promote health and wellbeing in your community – whether you’re a healthcare professional, or work or volunteer in your community, or are in any role where you can discuss health with others – the Talk Cancer training can help you have life-saving conversations.

As well as interpreted workshops, there are online and face-to-face training formats available. Contact the Talk Cancer team to find out more.

Sophie Lindsay-Ogg is a senior health community engagement officer at Cancer Research UK

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