Launched in December 2020 and funded by Power to Change and the Lottery Fund, the COVID Lead Leadership Programme was established to help challenge the misconceptions and myths of COVID-19 and the vaccine within Black and minority ethnic (BAME) communities.
Programme director Noreen Khan recruited 20 young people (18-25 years old) onto the course. All are from BAME backgrounds and are predominantly currently studying clinical sciences, pharmacy or nursing at the University of Bradford.
MS Khan says: ‘Long term effective behavioural change around understanding of COVIDneeds to be fostered and nurtured. Through our COVID Public Advocates, we want to reduce the impact of COVIDin communities across Bradford through effective communication, engagement and policy development.”
The COVID Public Advocates have participated in a series of online sessions about the facts and science of the virus and the vaccine and used this knowledge and awareness to have COVID Community Conversations with BAME communities during February 2021. The Advocates have been equipped with the information and skills to help dispel myths and combat disinformation circulating within inner city BAME communities. As such they were hitting a success rate of mindset change from anti vaxxer to pro vaxxer at a rate of eight persons per day.
As part of the programme, the Advocates are undertaking an accredited leadership course which will allow for a formal qualification when they graduate at the end of March. Together, they are producing papers on the challenges facing BAME people under four key areas: Economy, education, communities and mental health and wellbeing. They will produce a policy paper to present to the Health Minister and Vaccine Minister. They are unpaid but as an incentive will gain a £200 participation bursary on completion of the programme. The programme is a ‘one-off’ but with funding could be repeated and could be replicated elsewhere in the country.