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Bradford Professor appointed to UNESCO body wants to shine light on health inequalities caused by Covid-19


Prof Mahendra Patel will deliver ‘first of its kind’ webinar to global experts

A Bradford professor has been appointed as Faculty and Teaching Member to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation's (UNESCO's) Department of Education's International Programme of the UNESCO Chair in Bioethics.

Visiting Honorary Professor Mahendra Patel, from the Faculty of Life Sciences at the University of Bradford, is also a national board member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and International Fellow of the Indian Pharmaceutical Association.

He was appointed to the new role in April but began working with UN organisation’s international programme this month, as a panel of esteemed global leaders in the world of pharmacy in helping to deliver its 16th webinar and the first of its kind to involve pharmacy.

In his role as Teaching Faculty Member, he will be leading on pharmacy bioethics in the International Programme of the Department of Education of the UNESCO Chair of Bioethics Australia Asia Pacific Division.

Professor Patel, who lives in Wakefield, described the appointment as a “great privilege and honour” and said he wanted to use the position in the first instance to help highlight at an international level the ethical issues faced by the pharmacy profession in responding to Covid-19..

He said: “The appointment is not something I have shouted about but it’s a significant role in terms of the level of influence it brings and the ability to reach a global audience. Part of my national work at the moment is largely focused around educating people in relation to Covid-19, particularly those from BAME and underprivileged communities, where I think we need to be much more proactive in terms of effectively engaging with people from various religious and cultural backgrounds.

“We need to provide culturally competent and targeted education to these communities, advising and supporting them on how and what they can do better to minimise the risks of catching coronavirus. This means more testing and closer working with the various communities to ensure they have the trust and confidence to engage with us as healthcare professionals about the health status of individuals. It’s about building a genuine and meaningful relationship with those higher risk groups and overcoming the cultural, language and behavioural barriers which exist - and there’s a way to do that.”

Prof Patel said he was advocating the wider “mobilisation” of local pharmacists to help “build bridges between communities and government health advice”, with a view to improving people’s health in general and reducing health inequalities.

Prof Patel’s appointment will last until 2023.

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