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Charity Launches Community Wellbeing Space to Address Health Disparities in Birmingham

Naseem-Akhtar-founder-of-the-charity-Saheli-Hub

A charity dedicated to narrowing the gender and ethnic diversity gap in physical activity has launched a community wellbeing space aimed at extending the lives of people with some of the UK’s poorest health outcomes.

“South Asians have the highest level of diabetes in the city – diabetes is the most common health issue among Asian, Black and minority ethnic groups in the UK – and also suffer higher than average rates of cardiovascular disease because of diet, poverty and because they are least likely to access standard health and fitness facilities,” says Naseem Akhtar, founder of the charity, Sähëlï Hub.

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Formed in 1999, the charity supports 3,000 people a year by delivering free, culturally-appropriate physical activity programmes and social clubs in parks, GP surgeries and at two community centres.

Since 2001, Sähëlï Hub has engaged with more than 8,000 participants – 92% women, 94% from Global Majority Backgrounds and 89% from the poorest areas of Birmingham.

“We bridge the gap between the health and wellness services available and the services members of our community actually want,” she says.

In line with this mission, the charity has introduced a nine-piece power-assisted exercise circuit at the Alum Rock Community Centre.

Owned by Clarion Housing Group, the centre sits at the heart of Alum Rock in Birmingham, a city where Clarion owns and manages thousands of homes.

The centre acts as a meeting place for local residents as well as a space for events and activities. Sähëlï Hub moved into the site in early 2023, providing the organisation with a home at the heart of the community.

“The men and women we work with wouldn’t dream of using mainstream gyms, which are often not culturally appropriate for our community. Our new wellness space will allow people to take control of their health at a level they are comfortable with,” says Akhtar.

Offering separate sessions for men and women, the new space will support the charity’s successful Culturally Appropriate Prevention of Diabetes (CAPD) programme, which helps local residents to improve their health and lifestyle to reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

“The word Sähëlï means ‘female friend’ in many South Asian languages and the new space is very much about providing a place to build friendships too,” says Akhtar.

“We’re delighted to be working alongside a trusted partner like Innerva to positively impact the health and longevity of our community.

There’s still a misconception that Asian men and women don’t enjoy exercise, but by taking a different approach we’ve encouraged people to run half marathons, take up cycling, go quad biking and even wild swimming.

This new wellness space expands our accessible and culturally appropriate exercise provision so we can encourage more people to be active and help prolong the lives of individuals from some of Birmingham’s most vulnerable communities.”

“Innerva prioritizes building partnerships with individuals and organizations committed to making a meaningful impact.

After hearing Naseem speak at an event, I was so impressed by her work and authenticity that I had to reach out – her work resonates so strongly with what we are trying to achieve at Innerva.

I’m so pleased our initial conversation has evolved into this partnership and I’m excited to see it flourish.”

“Getting active is vital for both physical and mental wellbeing and so we’re delighted to have worked with Sähëlï Hub and Innerva to bring this new wellness space to life.

It will make such a difference for local people who may not be comfortable using a mainstream gym, providing a space to exercise as well as meet new people which is a big part of the work of Sähëlï Hub.”

For more information, please contact info@innerva.com

For more information about Sähëlï Hub, see https://saheli.co.uk/