Addressing women's health disparities in London

Manpreet MaycockOn Friday 9 March King’s Health Partners recognised International Women’s Day by sharing KHPeople profiles from inspiring women leaders.

The leaders spoke about the challenges many women face when taking on leadership roles and shared advice to support women who are interested in taking on positions of leadership. As well as this, the leaders also wanted to address the biases that can impact women’s health.  

One leader who is working to empower women to make positive changes to their health is Manpreet Maycock. Manpreet is a British Army soldier, and also works as an Assistant General Manager at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust (NHS FT). Through her work she helps lead the Vital 5 Women’s Health Initiative which aims to address health disparities in Women’s Health. 

Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS FT, Partnership Southwark, and partners from the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector all actively support the Women’s Health Initiative. The aim of the initiative is to conduct Vital 5 health check-ups in local communities and create supportive spaces for discussions around women’s wellbeing to take place - particularly targeting ethnic minority women.  

The health checks support women to access to blood pressure checks, mental health support, guidance on alcohol and smoking cessation, along with advice on healthy eating and weight management. There are also plans to expand these services to encompass breast screening and domestic abuse support.

Discussions are also taking place with women from the communities reached so far around gynaecological support and the communities are keen for this area to be added to the initiative. Local mosques and churches in Southwark have already provided safe spaces for this initiative to run and the team is actively recruiting more safe spaces to reach women who are impacted by health disparities. 

The initiative is being supported by Breathe Arts Health Research who are providing Breathe Wellbeing taster sessions to provide women with moments of calm and creativity (funded by Guy's and St Thomas' Charity). Also supporting the initiative are social prescribers and other VCSE partners, such as the diabetes team & Everyone Health Southwark.  

Manpreet Maycock who is leading on this work explained why this work needs to happen: 

"Women often prioritise the health of their families, sometimes neglecting their own.

"Women from ethnic minority backgrounds also face significant health disparities and these need to be addressed. For instance, during our outreach, we discovered that over 40% of these women had raised blood pressure levels, highlighting a critical health concern. Vital statistics further highlight the unique health challenges faced by women, and our initiative is dedicated to closing this gap by providing tailored support. Women experiencing dismissed pain and medical studies primarily designed around men are also known issues that are impacting women’s health today.

"The Vital 5 work addresses all these challenges by offering inclusive health checks and tailored support services, recognising and respecting the unique health needs of women." 

Has this work made you think about your own health differently? 

"As a reservist for the British Army, I regularly focus on my physical and mental wellbeing – I consider both to be essential.

"The Vital 5 initiative has reinforced the importance of prioritising women’s health. Recognising the tendency for women to put their needs on the backburner, our goal at Guy’s and St Thomas' NHS FT is to empower women in south east London to lead healthier and happier lives through check-ups, information, and community events. I wish all women could prioritise their health and wellbeing in the same way." 

What advice would you give to women who are having difficulties making health changes? 

"I've learned that if you can look after your physical and mental health, you can deal with any challenges in your life. Courage, discipline, respect for others, integrity, loyalty, and selfless commitment are key values I have gained from the British Army. 

"My advice to women who are having difficulties making health changes would be to start small, prioritise self-care, and seek support. Engaging with healthcare professionals, attending health check-ups, and participating in community events can provide valuable insights and encouragement on the journey to better health. Taking these small steps can make a significant difference in the long run." 

Find out more about the Vital 5 in south east London.