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Greater Manchester residents urged to be part of major study to improve health of South Asian people

A major international study helping researchers to understand why people of South Asian heritage are more likely to suffer from common long-term illnesses has come to Greater Manchester. 

South Asian men and women aged 18 to 85 are being encouraged to take part in the South Asia Biobank Study. It is being supported by Clinical Research Network (CRN) Greater Manchester, part of the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR). 

All participants will receive a comprehensive report of their personal health and will contribute to a project aiming to improve health outcomes for South Asian people worldwide. 

To date, there has been limited, large-scale research into why South Asians are more susceptible than other populations to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other long-term health conditions. 

For example, South Asians are three times more at risk of diabetes than people of European heritage. A key aspect of the study is to understand why this is the case, and to gather mass data which can find trends that could lead to breakthroughs in treatments.

The South Asia Biobank Study, led by Imperial College London and funded by the Wellcome Trust, will recruit 200,000 participants of Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan heritage living in South Asia and the UK. Participants do not need to have any health issues to get involved. 

CRN Greater Manchester is delighted to open the study in the city region. Over 170 local residents have already taken part at the local study clinic in Cheetham Hill. 

Tariq Sheikh, 55, a grocery cash and carry till operator and salesman from Ashton-under-Lyne, was among the first participants in Greater Manchester. 

He said: “I heard reports that South Asian people in the UK have more problems with their health. I want to help these people in the future. The more people who are involved, the better the results will be. By taking part in the study, we can help find out the reasons why South Asian people have more health problems than white Anglo Saxon people. 

“Research can help our nation, our people, and all human beings. The staff at the clinic were very gentle and helpful. I appreciate what they did for me. It was very friendly.”

Vilphy Biju, 48, an eye hospital nurse from Fallowfield, took part along with her daughter Neha, 20 (pictured, with CRN Greater Manchester Senior Clinical Research Nurse Bindhu Xavier).

Vilphy, who has Type II diabetes, has already shared details of how to get involved with her friends and family. She said: “My daughter has taken part in renal (kidney) research and we’ve been involved in awareness campaigning for stem cell and organ donation, so when we heard about this study we were comfortable about it and said ‘let’s do it as a family’. 

“We know some conditions are more prevalent in our South Asian community and anything that can bring more awareness of this and help find answers is positive. It’s also an opportunity to learn more about your health and have foresight to stop things getting worse. It was all very straightforward on the day - a health check-up and a questionnaire on your health - and everyone was very friendly and welcoming.”

Afzal Khan, MP for the Manchester Gorton constituency, has taken part. He said:

“I was at the clinic for about an hour while the research nurses carried out a range of standard health checks and helped me fill in a questionnaire. Not only will my involvement help the research, I will also get a full, personalised health report. I encourage all South Asian people to take a look and consider being part of this research.”

Louise Woodhead, Team Lead Research Nurse at NIHR Clinical Research Network Greater Manchester, said: 

“Greater Manchester is renowned for its rich and diverse communities and so we are very proud to be offering our local South Asian residents the opportunity to be part of this huge study. By taking part, Greater Manchester residents are contributing to something which has the potential to help people worldwide. 

“On an individual basis, what’s great about this particular study is that everyone who takes part gets their own unique health ‘MOT’ report. The simple health checks, which look at a person’s blood, heart, weight and other key indicators, can identify problems someone might not be aware of and help them make lifestyle changes before things get any worse.”

Professor Jaspal Kooner, Chief Investigator of the South Asia Biobank study, Imperial College London, said: 

“As the study lead, I am excited to be able to offer a health assessment to South Asians in the Manchester area who are able to come to the Cheetham Hill site. The participants will receive a free health report which will let them know if there are areas where they can improve their health. At the same time, their data, when brought together in research, could go a long way to identify what lies behind the high risk of heart disease and diabetes in the South Asian population. Everybody gains from taking part in both the short and the long-term.”