Doctor’s sessions
Exercise sessions
Infant feeding
Camden Bangladesh Mela

Bengali Women’s Health Project has continued to provide direct and much needed support services to local communities, including:

Running health promotion workshops
Providing one to one doctor’s sessions
Providing exercise facilities for women
Supporting Camden Primary Care Trust in research about infant feeding issues in the Bangladeshi community, supporting Camden Primary Care Trust’s Bangladeshi Peer Support project in setting up an infant feeding drop-in for mothers and pregnant women
Helping to test a leaflet written in English and Bengali about introducing family foods to babies
Contributing to the Camden Bangladesh Mela.

Each participating community centres ran a series of workshops focused on the following topics:
Access to services such as cervical and breast screening
Smoking cessation, passive smoking, and paan chewing
Healthy eating, weight management, exercise, and tackling obesity
Sexual health, teenage pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infections
Mental health and wellbeing
Infant feeding, childhood immunisation, and accident prevention in childhood

The six topic areas were decided in line with the priorities for statutory services, government ‘Choosing Health’ priorities, and needs assessment by community workers. Each community centre developed a
different set of workshops to address these topics, depending on available speakers, resources, and staff. But the aim was for each centre to provide a set of 2-hour sessions on each topic.

The workshop topics are advertised in advance on centre notice boards. Community workers also telephone women that they think might be interested and invite women who may be attending other events at the centre. The workshops are flexible and aim to encourage women to share their experiences and ask questions.

The community workers work hard to ensure there is no pressure to participate and that the environment is comfortable. There is no hierarchy of age or education promoted. All of the sessions offer a chance for social
interaction and communication with others.

Community workers greet visitors as they arrive, get to know each woman attending, and introduce women to one another. Written materials are usually offered for women to take away with them, though often these are only available in English.

Originally, the project was set up to provide advice sessions with Bengali speaking female doctors. Now, doctors advice sessions are often held informally after the health promotion workshops, although some centres also run separate doctors appointments weekly or monthly.

Women often ask their questions informally, or have their blood pressure measured while chatting to the group. Confidential issues are discussed in private rooms. The doctors act in an advisory capacity. They are not able to prescribe medicine or refer women for specialist care. Instead, they focus on reinforcing advice about healthy living and encouraging women to take their medication or make appointments for further tests.

The main things that doctors report supporting women with over the past year have been:
information about healthy eating habits and dietary advice for women with diabetes or heart disease,
information about lifestyle changes to support arthritis and asthma self care,
remedies for headaches and backache,
discussions about support for depression & anxiety, including a listening ear to talk through problems with,
and explaining how to use medicines or what they are for

Some doctors also regularly check women’s blood pressure and advise women about workshops they could attend at the centres to learn more about healthy eating and exercise.

The most common condition that doctor’s supported women with was raised blood pressure, followed by diabetes, and arthritis or joint pain

The Bengali Women’s Health Project team acknowledge that a lack of exercise among Bangladeshi families in Camden can impact on the physical and mental wellbeing of the community. The project supports the provision of specialist exercise machines in Chadswell Healthy Living Centre where women can drop in on a weekly basis. In total, 120 exercise sessions have been run at the Chadswell Healthy Living Centre.


In addition to providing workshops and doctor’s sessions in community venues, the project has worked closely with Camden PCT and Sure Start to support local infant feeding initiatives.

Kawser Zannath, a past Secretary of the Project, now works at Camden PCT’s Health Promotion Department. Kawser has led a number of initiatives to raise awareness about the benefits of breastfeeding and healthy weaning, drawing on expertise from the Bengali Women’s Health Project to support this work.
For instance, the project supported Camden PCT in research about infant feeding issues in the Bangladeshi community, by hosting discussion groups with women.

A discussion group was run at each centre, and women talked about their experiences of feeding their babies and some of the barriers or concerns they had. The research found that the Bangladeshi community has a range of difficulties with infant feeding, and that Bangladeshi families may have different issues to others. The main issues appear to be helping mothers maintain breastfeeding and helping them introduce solid foods appropriately.

The research recommended the following to improve breastfeeding and healthy weaning:

Educating professionals about the needs of Bangladeshi families
Sessions for Bangladeshi women and professionals to share views
Working in partnership with Bangladeshi community groups

Setting up antenatal education sessions in community venues
Providing targeted feeding support at the place women give birth
Involving family members in education, Peer support
Training peer supporters from the Bangladeshi community
Drop in sessions run by peer supporters and professionals

Developing a leaflet about different stages of feeding
Adapting and translating leaflets
Considering a translation service for professionals

A 60-page document summarising all of the findings is available through Camden PCT. This work is being used by Camden PCT as the basis for a workbook to help promote healthy infant feeding choices. Community workers also promoted Camden PCT’s Bangladeshi Peer Support project’s infant feeding drop-in for mothers and pregnant women and helped to test a leaflet about introducing family foods.

The Bengali Women’s Health Project contributes to the Mela each year, hosting a stall with health promotion information and community workers on hand to offer support and signposting to other services.

In addition, the Chair of the Bengali Women’s Health Project, Samina Dewan, chairs the Mela committee and has been nominated for an ‘Exceptional People in Camden’ award for her contribution to arts and culture.



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