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South Reading ‘Cancer Champions’ in training

Nearly 40 community volunteers are undergoing training in Reading over the next two months to become Macmillan Cancer Champions as part of a project looking to address inequalities in cancer care.

The project, the result of a partnership between South Reading Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Macmillan Cancer Support and Rushmoor Healthy Living (RHL), aims to get more people from Reading’s different communities aware of and using the cancer services that are available to them, which it is hoped will ultimately start to improve local cancer survival rates.

Once they have finished their training, the volunteers will be certified as ‘Cancer Champions’ by Macmillan Cancer Support.

Nisha Sharma is the Macmillan South Reading Cancer Community Development Educator and is leading the project. Nisha said: ‘My career has always involved working with communities to help them understand and solve the issues they’re facing, like poor access to health services. So I’ve received training from Macmillan about understanding cancer and am now working with South Reading’s communities to identify the obstacles preventing people from using cancer services and screening programmes. Cultural and language barriers are often part of the problem we’re addressing, but that’s why having cancer champions has the potential to work so well.’

Since April 2017 Nisha has met with over 35 different groups and nearly 1,000 people in the following communities:

  • The Greater Nepalese Community
  • The Reading Polish community
  • The Reading Deaf Community
  • Support U LGBT Group
  • The Older People’s Working Group
  • The Reading elderly Indian community
  • Reading Pakistan women community
  • Various mixed African origin groups

As part of this community work, Nisha has recruited nearly 40 volunteers who want to make a difference in their communities and help to educate them and raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of cancer. Many of these volunteers come from the communities and groups listed above and will be receiving their training both online and by attending courses.

Dr Kajal Patel, Berkshire West CCGs Federated Cancer Lead and South Reading CCG Governing Body Board Member said: “The South Reading Cancer project has been funded by Macmillan and delivered by Rushmoor Healthy Living. Our project Manager Nisha Sharma has been diligently meeting all our different communities and engaging with a wide variety of groups to learn about the barriers people have to accessing healthcare and engaging with screening and being aware of cancer symptoms. We know that people can be fearful of screening and avoid formal medical locations.
We are thrilled with the progress the project has made thus far and the 1000 people that have benefitted from the work that has been done. Advertising does not reach everyone and Macmillan’s funding has enabled us to reach out to communities in a new way”.

The two-year project, which encompasses volunteer recruitment, training, cancer education, participation in events and activities, will run until 2019. It is delivered by Rushmoor Healthy Living, in partnership with South Reading Clinical Commissioning Group and funded by Macmillan Cancer Support.


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