The aim of the roles is to tackle inequalities faced by mothers and babies from communities of ethnic diversity, which were revealed in a recent report.
Pat Jamal and Reem Gahallah Mohamed started their roles in April, and have begun to hear about the experience of maternity services across Morecambe Bay, particularly for people with different cultural backgrounds and those who may not speak English as a first language. They are leading by example, with other Maternity Voices Partnerships (MVPs) around the country now following suit and it's hoped that the network develops in order to benefit outcomes for all women and birthing people.
Bay-Wide MVP’s former Chair, Becky Knagg, helped to establish the Maternity Diversity Champion roles. She said: “We learnt from the MBRRACE (Mothers and Babies: Reducing Risk through Audits and Confidential Enquiries) report last year that black women are five times more likely to die in pregnancy than white women, and Asian women are nearly twice as likely.
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“This figure is shocking and as a Maternity Voices Partnership we needed to do more to hear the voices of women from all backgrounds in Morecambe Bay.
“We sought to recruit service user representation from women who have lived experience of using maternity services as a black or Asian minority ethnic group, who could help us to reach a more diverse population and help us to truly represent more women in Morecambe Bay.
“Reem and Pat have already been making great links within our communities and helping to feed back the experiences of our diverse population, back into the maternity services. Their experiences also gave us a greater insight into what it is like coming to live in England as an adult and using health services when English is not your first language. Their input has already had a huge positive impact on us addressing the issues highlighted by MBRRACE.”
Academic librarian Pat is a Palestinian from Lebanon, who has also lived in Australia, the United Arab Emirates, and is now based in Morecambe.
Since April, she has been interviewing women from Arab backgrounds, including refugees, recent migrants, and those who have been based in the region long-term. She is also following the journey of one woman who is four months pregnant, with the hope of gathering more data from her experience as she moves on towards her baby’s birth and beyond.
She said: “My aim is to continue to play an integral role in contributing to better services by listening and conversing with women regarding their birth experiences, leaving no voice unheard.
“There is always more to be done and a larger target audience to reach out to. I am currently on a journey of cultural awareness and understanding of the Roma, Gypsy and Traveller communities, which I hope will give me more meaningful encounters and a contribution of birth experiences of these ethnic groups.”
Lancaster-based Reem is an architect, originally from Sudan. Her early work with the MVP has included talking with schools, nurseries, playgroups, and women's organisations to let them know what help is at hand, to provide information, and listen to their stories and share their experiences.
She said: “This role is completely different from my major, but as a mother, I have lived experience. Since I heard about this role, I have been excited to join this team and take on a new challenge in my life by learning about another field and adding diverse experiences in my career.
“I look forward to hearing the voices of all mothers, especially ethnic minority mothers because they often can be more vulnerable to complications during pregnancy. Some stories are happy and some are sad, but most of those I've met say the service is generally good, except for a few things.
“I look forward to shedding light on the problems they face due to their different backgrounds and cultures, as well as the language, which is an obstacle for many. I look forward to participating in the development of the services provided so that they fully meet the requirements of the mother and the child.”
New Bay-Wide MVP Chair, Kate Jones, added: “I am looking forward to continuing this highly important work alongside Pat and Reem, and I'm so happy to have them on board with us at Bay-Wide MVP.
“We have made connections with key people in the trust who are all so passionate and dedicated to hearing the voices of all our Morecambe Bay families.
“The idea of a larger network of Maternity Diversity Champions is really positive and there is a new equity strategy being launched next month which will provide us with further networking opportunities, insights and objectives moving forward.”
You can find out more about the Bay-Wide Maternity Voices Partnership by visiting www.morecambebayccg.nhs.uk/get-involved/maternity-voices-partnership, or by emailing Chair Kate Jones via [email protected]