Trailblazing Leeds GP shining a light on health inequalities and Black British history

A Leeds GP who is trying to create better health opportunities for marginalised children and families is also working to raise the profile of black British history in her spare time.

Thursday, 22nd October 2020, 6:00 am

Dr Julie Duodu is taking part in Health Education England’s trailblazer GP programme, hosted by NHS Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which sees her work on raising awareness and uptake of the Healthy Start voucher and vitamin scheme for families on lower incomes.

Healthy Start is a national project for pregnant women, or those who have children under the age of four, who meet the qualifying criteria. Through the scheme, free vouchers are available every week to spend on milk, fresh, frozen, and tinned fruit and vegetables, fresh, dried, and tinned pulses, and infant formula milk as well as free vitamins.

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Children across Leeds would be going without food, vitamins and nutrients if it were not for the Healthy Start voucher scheme.

Part of the role is to inform families that they are eligible and to even help them enrol in it.

She became a trailblazer GP prior to the coronavirus outbreak but said the pandemic had made the scheme even more relevant and important.

She said: "When I applied and took up the role of a trailblazer GP it was before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. However, we all know that COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on some communities which has made me even more determined to help my patients who really need to be accessing the Healthy Start scheme to support their children through infancy.

“The pandemic has, at times, made it harder for people to get to collection points. Several groups within the CCG, Leeds City Council and third sector organisations have been working hard to offer more options and availability of venues supporting Healthy Start. As GPs we have a unique long-term relationship with our patients, and so being better informed ourselves about this and other schemes better equips us to support our patients.

"I’ve enjoyed the role as it has exposed me to the wider challenges some of our communities face and how we as healthcare professionals can support them, beyond the medical model of care.”

Away from the surgery, which is the York Street Practice in the city centre, Dr Duodo and her sister Stephanie Amor are raising the profile of historical and present day black figures and businesses through their Instagram account @Afro_Leads.

They call it their "passion project" and each day they post about UK black business and culture and more recently have been posting about historically important black figures during Black History Month which runs throughout October, especially because much of it is not taught in schools.

Dr Duodo said: “Black history isn’t just for one month however it does help to shine a light on marginalised areas, communities and untold history.

“We want to share these stories as this history is not taught in schools. I found out about the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955 in America before hearing about the Bristol bus boycott of 1963 which was one of the main contributory factors leading to the UK Race Relations Act of 1965, but this was not something I’d heard about through formal education settings.

"Our own parents emigrated from Ghana, with dad arriving in the late 1970s to complete his dentistry course and mum in the early 1980s. Their stories, alongside others, create a myriad of narratives and experiences across our ethnically diverse communities."

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Laura Collins