Trustees’ Discretionary Grant
Dr Amrit Daffu-O’Reilly, University of Leeds
People of South Asian origin mainly originate from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. South Asian people living in the UK have up to a 50% higher risk of developing coronary heart disease compared to the general population. There are many reasons for this, including genetics and social factors, but it has been suggested that a less than healthy diet and low physical activity levels are key contributors. Heart disease is common in India and Pakistan too, mainly for the same reasons. It is important to try and help people to improve their diet and levels of physical activity to have better health.
There are three main religions from South Asia – Islam, Hinduism and Sikhism. Sikhs come from the Punjab area in north India. There are many Sikhs now living in the UK – approximately 432,400.
The place of worship for the Sikh community is the Gurdwara where Sikh people get together to pray, meet and share meals. At the heart of the temple is the community kitchen, known as langar. This is a free vegetarian meal served to everyone attending the Gurdwara and is a symbol of charity and equality. Langar is served in every Gurdwara around the world and community members prepare and serve this food. Langar can be unhealthy because of specific ingredients used and food preparation techniques – resulting in a highly calorific meal.
Dr Daffu-O’Reilly and her team will work together with two Sikh Gurdwaras in West Yorkshire to firstly explore perceptions relating to langar by conducting focus groups and interviews with people who attend the Gurdwaras, those responsible for preparing langar, and people who do not attend the partner Gurdwaras to ensure the capture of wide opinions. This process will also result in the development of an advisory group with whom the team will work to co-produce the research. This scoping exercise will lay the foundation to exploring ways in which any identified barriers to change may be overcome, by using psychological theory to inform the next stage of this research – intervention development – which will be conducted jointly with the two Gurdwaras.
The long term plan is to develop a toolkit of change, so that the two champion Gurdwaras can assist other Gurdwaras to make healthy changes and lead by example, locally, regionally, nationally and hopefully internationally too. There are Gurdwaras in many countries, including India, Pakistan, Africa, Germany, Italy, America and Canada which means that the work has the potential to make a big difference to peoples’ health. The findings from this work might be helpful to the other South Asian groups too, since there are similarities in food choices and preparation techniques across the different groups, and heart disease is equally prominent among these groups too.