As thousands of people head to Handsworth Park on Sunday for Birmingham’s Vaisakhi Mela, Birmingham Public Health’s Lead Public Health Nurse, Elaine George, urges visitors to make the most of a potentially life-saving opportunity.
If I told you a 15-minute appointment this weekend could extend and more importantly improve the quality of your life, you might be sceptical. But that’s exactly what my health colleagues in Birmingham are offering visitors to Sunday’s Vaisakhi celebrations in Handsworth Park.
And we’re hoping that hundreds of visitors to the park will take the opportunity to undergo a FREE NHS Health Check as they enjoy the festivities.
A volunteer army of GPs, nurses and other health officials will be on hand to carry out the checks as we aim to prove that prevention really is better than cure.
FREE to adults in England aged 40-74, the NHS Health Check programme consists of a series of routine tests to identify the risk of developing certain conditions as we get older.
I say routine but the outcome can be far from routine – it could actually save your life. Everyone has a chance of developing heart disease, stroke, kidney disease or type-2 diabetes and the consequences can of course be extremely serious.
The NHS Health Check assesses your risk of developing these conditions and – more importantly – you are then offered advice on how to lower the risks and improve your chances of a healthier life.
So why are we targeting the Vaisakhi Mela then?
Well for one thing, our statistics show that members of Birmingham’s South Asian population are far less likely to ask their GP for an NHS Health Check. So we’ve decided to offer the checks in a less formal, less scary, setting.
We also want to reach as many people as possible. This is a massive event with up to 80,000 visitors (more if the sun is shining). Many of those visitors will be in our target age-range (40-74). So, if some people won’t come to us, we’re taking this fantastic health initiative out into the community.
We offered NHS Health Checks on a smaller scale at last year’s Vaisakhi Mela and the response was overwhelming. So this year we’re working with Dr Sukhdev Singh and his team of volunteers to offer health checks to hundreds of people.
Now if we help just one person identify a problem and adopt a healthier lifestyle, we’ll be happy. But I suspect we’ll have a positive impact on many more lives and if that’s not an extra reason to celebrate Vaisakhi, I don’t know what is.