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  • Writer's pictureHarjot Sidhu

A CONVERSATION ABOUT ADDICTION & HEALTH LITERACY, WITH RICKY BHANDAL


The below is a short piece intended to accompany a longer audio conversation with Ricky Bhandal.


LISTEN TO THE FULL CONVERSATION HERE> AND DOWNLOAD ON YOUR DESIRED PLATFORM (REMEMBER TO SUBSCRIBE OR FOLLOW THE PODCAST FOR EASE AND FOR FUTURE EPISODES)


OR, SEARCH FOR 'LONDON WRITING GUY' WHEREVER YOU GET YOUR PODCASTS AND SIMPLY DOWNLOAD THE LATEST EPISODE.


If you’re reading this and you’re from a South Asian background (or even if you’re not), how’s your health literacy? In 2021, Birmingham City Council began developing community health profiles. These profiles aimed to identify and summarise the physical health, mental health, lifestyle behaviour and wider determinants of health-related issues that were affecting specific communities both nationally and in Birmingham. They also looked at identifying and summarising gaps in the knowledge of the community, thus aiding health literacy.

Ricky Bhandal has been heavily involved in these projects and, in an independent capacity, gives us a brief insight of what the state of play is. Ricky started out as a drug addiction worker. Building a bit of a niche for himself as one of the very few Asians working in the drug & alcohol system, Ricky’s work eventually led him to creating The National Substance Misuse Conference highlighting barriers for all in the system.


In December 2021, the Sikh community health profile was released. It expanded upon the work conducted by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) in 2010, who published a report around ethnicity and alcohol. Where the JRF report looked at a very specific area, Birmingham City Council’s work took a more holistic approach.


Just some of the astonishing findings from both reports are below (For the full findings on the Sikh Community, as well as on other communities, click here>)

  • Alcohol-related deaths are higher among Indian men compared with the general population[i]

  • Minority ethnic groups are under-represented proportionately among those seeking treatment and advice for drinking problems[ii]

  • 1 in 4 Sikhs reported having someone in their family with a drinking problem[iii]

  • Obesity rates are higher in the South Asian population compared to the general population.[iv]

  • Around 30% of Hindus and Sikhs report less than 30 mins of physical activity in a week[v]

  • The average daily energy Intake of 137 Sikh Punjabi Males aged 21 – 55 in the UK was 3,216 KCAL[vi]

  • The risk of developing diabetes is 2 to 6 times higher amongst Sikhs, when compared to White Europeans within the UK[vii]


Lifestyle choices can have a negative impact on long term health. If left unchecked, issues such as addiction, obesity and heart disease (to name just a few) may well arise. For my conversation with Ricky, the topic of addiction was very much at the forefront.

Through his years of working within the drug and alcohol addiction space, Ricky has come to realise that treatment systems are not only racially biased, due to issues with the coding and monitoring, but also the fact that the people within these systems need to be more culturally sensitive. There is a need to understand the intersectionality of the communities being treated and their complex needs.

In my conversation with Ricky, we discussed how he got involved in the area of drug addiction work, the issues with drug and alcohol services that are servicing those who identify as South Asian, the problem of a poor lifestyle within the South Asian community and much more.


LISTEN TO THE FULL CONVERSATION HERE> AND DOWNLOAD ON YOUR DESIRED PLATFORM (REMEMBER TO SUBSCRIBE OR FOLLOW THE PODCAST FOR EASE AND FOR FUTURE EPISODES)


OR, SEARCH FOR 'LONDON WRITING GUY' WHEREVER YOU GET YOUR PODCASTS AND SIMPLY DOWNLOAD THE LATEST EPISODE.


[i] Hurcombe, Bayley, Goodman. Ethnicity and alcohol – A review of the UK Literature. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2010 [ii] Hurcombe, Bayley, Goodman. Ethnicity and alcohol – A review of the UK Literature. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2010 [iii] Birmingham City Council. Sikh Community Health Profile. 2021 [iv] Birmingham City Council. Sikh Community Health Profile. 2021 [v] Birmingham City Council. Sikh Community Health Profile. 2021 [vi] Birmingham City Council. Sikh Community Health Profile. 2021 [vii] Birmingham City Council. Sikh Community Health Profile. 2021

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