Professor Chris Whitty visits Bradford
Posted: Thu, 7 Apr 2022 16:57
The Chief Medical Officer for England, Chris Whitty, visited Bradford recently to talk about promoting health messages and the importance of programmes like JU:MP that engage with parents.
He visited the Al Mustafa Centre in Girlington with parents, leaders, teachers, place based groups and the Chair of the Council of Mosques Imran Khan.
They spoke about a number of things relating to children's health in Bradford including, maintaining links with Islamic Religious Settings and how everyone has come together to come out of COVID-19 by engaging with programmes such as JU:MP.
Maulana Hafeez of the Al-Mustafa Centre in Girlington said:
"Firstly, I would like to express my gratitude to Professor Chris Whitty for taking his time out to come and visit some ordinary people like us. I'd also like to thank the Trailblazer team in facilitating the arrangements and for their efforts in general for the betterment of our community.
As most people will be aware, Bradford as a whole and Girlington in particular is one of the most impoverished and neglected places in the UK. It gives great hope when someone like Professor Whitty, who is immensely influential in shaping government policies on health and wellbeing, takes time out to connect with the general public.
I was particularly pleased how Professor Whitty was very generous with his time as he patiently endured over an hour hearing the views of an audience of approximately 25 people. He acknowledged many of the points raised and promised to take up grievances forward so that the work we are doing can be provided with the essential support it needs.
We were fortunate to have a very diverse audience with people from varying backgrounds. This made the conversation very interesting as we had the opportunity to hear many different perspectives and some unique experiences from the audience.
I am truly grateful for the opportunity to participate in the discussion and look forward to the great work ahead knowing that we have support from people integral in making this a success in the long term."
They also spoke about parents' realisation of how important it is for children to want to engage in programmes like JU:MP after many children's mental health in the pandemic led them to be timid or reclused.
Dr Sufyan Dogra, Principal Research Fellow and Programmes Lead on health promotion in faith settings at Born in Bradford said:
"The visit of Professor Chris Witty was a ray of hope and boosted confidence of volunteers and health champions associated with mosques and madrassas. While Professor Chris Witty ensured all the support for small scale initiatives like Born in Bradford led Trailblazer Childhood Obesity programme implemented by Al Mustafa Centre, people showed their commitment to continue actively take ownership of health promotion initiatives."
The landscape for health promotion is very different now and the system has been adapted to more collaborative working. Numerous settings were heavily impacted by COVID-19 leading to a breakdown in structure but collaborative working has now improved the situation.
The importance of role models plays a huge role in getting children more involved in activities and helping parents understand that Islamic Religious Settings are in a good position to listen to health promotion messages. They have been especially useful for sharing COVID-19 messaging.
Chris Whitty asked about the challenges faced in getting Islamic Religious Settings to run activities and get on board with this work and was met with good news of full cooperation and overall positivity from all settings, with honest discussions around the barriers to delivering some activities.
The Imam, Sajid Safdar, at Masjid E Umar said:
"It was nice to meet professor Whitty in person. He listened attentively to the fabulous work that was being carried out in Bradford in tackling obesity in children. It highlighted that the NHS and faith based institutes can work together and tackle health issues in the community. I think he learnt that looking after yourself mentally, physically, spiritually is paramount in faith. It was nice to have a 2-way conversation."
Abida Rafiq is the Community Engagement Manager at JU:MP, working specifically on the Active Faith Settings workstream and was delighted to speak with Professor Whitty about the physical activity toolkit which is currently in development:
"It's truly amazing to have had the opportunity to showcase the crucial impact we have made within Islamic faith settings in co-producing and designing a toolkit. Having successfully managed to mobilse, inspire and motivate Islamic faith settings to take a more long term collective ownership towards delivering health prevention initiatives has further complemented Islamic teachings about the importance of overall physical well-being. Alongside other fantastic programmes within Born in Bradford – like JU:MP, we are hoping to ensure that these initiatives are further embedded and promoted as part of everyday practices for families and communities. I am hopeful that we will continue to invest in organisations and individuals as the agents of change to sustain the legacy of our programmes."
Chris Whitty was said to be enthused by the work and is extremely excited for it to continue.