What we learned on Manchester’s Curry Mile

Spotlight – 19 June 2024
Our pilot project in Manchester was designed to help under-represented communities take part in Our Future Health
A hive of activity: Within days of opening, the Curry Mile clinic was fully booked

Visitors to Manchester’s famed Curry Mile earlier this month were treated to something new on the menu. 

Nestled among the street’s usual restaurants and shops, a yellow mobile clinic was offering appointments to local volunteers. It was there as part of a pilot project to help people from diverse communities join Our Future Health. 

“We’re committed to building a volunteer group that reflects that UK population,” says Asya Choudry, Community Engagement Manager at Our Future Health. “That means reaching out to communities that haven’t always been represented in health research.

“Manchester is a very diverse place, and the Curry Mile area is home to a lot of South Asian, Middle Eastern and North African communities. There are also a lot of university students. We wanted to test what would happen if we ran a clinic here, to see if it helped boost diverse participation in Our Future Health.” 

Making the news

In the weeks leading up to the clinic’s deployment on the Curry Mile, Asya and her team arranged marketing activity that helped to raise awareness among the local population.  

Thousands of invite letters were mailed to peoples’ homes, offering the chance to book an appointment. Posters adorned shop windows, and a specially designed mural was printed on a local wall. 

Just before the clinic opened, Asya ran a ‘chai and chat’ stall in the area, offering anyone the chance to drop by and find out about Our Future Health over a cup of karak chai. 

The awareness-raising activities contributed to a strong uptake in the local community. The clinic was soon fully booked. On its opening day, it even featured on BBC TV and online.

What the volunteers said

L to R: Our Future Health heroes, Bushra Bibi, Henry Phillips and Imilia Igbonaju

“My friend suggested joining and now I’ll pass on the recommendation,” said 45-year-old Bushra Bibi, who attended her appointment at the clinic. “Maintaining good health is important because in my community we are all responsible for caring for our elderly family members and our children. This research could really help us all.” 

University student Imilia Igbonaju, 20, said that a recent research placement led her to take part on the Curry Mile. “I’m studying to become a mental health nurse, so I know it’s difficult to get certain demographics represented in health research,” she says. “There’s often not enough Nigerian representation, so I wanted to take part and change this. 

For 26-year-old Henry Phillips, joining felt like a way of supporting medical advancements. “I’d love to see progress being made in the prevention and treatment of Dementia and Alzheimer’s,” he said. “I’m a carer for young people, but my mum cares for elderly people with these diseases. I’ve gotten to know many of them, and it’s sad seeing them suffer – sometimes for many years. 

“The more people who join Our Future Health, the more people the data will serve in the future.”

What the numbers say

“The spirit is strong in Manchester,” says Asya, a born and bred Mancunian. “We’ve had so many different volunteers coming to our Curry Mile clinic – people of all ages and backgrounds, and with different reasons for joining.” 

So, what have we learned about the diversity of those volunteers? The numbers make for interesting reading. 

In total, our Curry Mile clinic offered 542 appointments over 11 days. 20% of the people who booked appointments were from Asian backgrounds – substantially higher than the 6% of Asian volunteers in our overall volunteer group. However, while that number is encouraging, it’s still some way behind the census for the local area, which is 31% Asian. 

We saw a similar pattern among Black people, and people from Mixed/Other backgrounds.

We also saw more younger people join Our Future Health on the Curry Mile than what we see on a country-wide basis. Currently, in our overall volunteer group, 8.2% of people are aged 18-29. On the Curry Mile, that figure jumped to 29%. 

Again, it’s not quite as high as the local census, which says that 47% of people in the area are from that age group.

What we learned – and what comes next

Our analysis reveals an interesting picture behind these headline statistics.

For example, response rates to our programme increased by 33% in the areas around the Curry Mile. It suggests that our marketing activities helped to raise awareness of Our Future Health, making people more likely to join when they received their invite.

47% of people who attended appointments at our Curry Mile clinic had not received our latest invitation letter in the area. That leads us to conclude that our marketing activity helped to encourage people who had previously been aware of Our Future Health, to continue their journey with us.

We can also see the benefit of having multiple clinics in one area. People who received an invite in the Curry Mile area attended appointments at clinics across the wider city. Roughly half went to our Curry Mile clinic, while the other half made use of our appointment offerings at Boots stores elsewhere in Manchester, and also in Stockport.

Community Engagement Manager at Our Future Health, Asya Choudry: “The spirit is strong in Manchester”

“It’s really encouraging to see that more younger people and people from Asian backgrounds signed up during the Curry Mile pilot,” says Asya. “Of course, we still have work to do to ensure that we’re truly building a programme for everyone. 

In the coming months, we’ll be taking these learnings forward, as we launch more projects designed to help everyone join the UK’s largest health research programme. For example, we’re establishing a community engagement team in East London, where we’ll be testing the impact of building relationships with communities over a longer period of time. 

To read more about these projects – and Our Future Health’s overall progress on diversity – you can read a recent article by Dr Raghib Ali, our Chief Medical Officer. 

Let’s prevent disease together

By volunteering for Our Future Health, you can help health researchers discover new ways to prevent, detect and treat common conditions such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, stroke and Alzheimer’s.

Find out moreJoin Our Future Health now