A short film aimed at supporting Roma women to breastfeed has been premiered at the Turner Contemporary in Margate.
Around 50 guests were invited to the red carpet event, including the Roma women who star in the film, their families and health professionals from across Kent and London.
The film was made by Philippa Burden, a health visitor with Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust (KCHFT). The project is the result of a year’s work combining her role at KCHFT with a Darzi Fellowship post graduate course she has been doing with the Centre for Health Services Studies at the University of Kent. On the course Philippa has been working on a Becoming Breastfeeding Friendly project linked with Yale University in America, together with Professor Sally Kendall.
The film is called Roma Women Talk About Breastfeeding and was co-produced with Slovakian Roma mothers living in Margate, Dover and Folkestone. It aims to encourage breastfeeding in the Roma and other migrant communities, where rates are low. It is also to help support women to breastfeed and to educate about the benefits.
The 10-minute film focuses on Roma women talking about their breastfeeding experience and the advice they would like to give to new mums. The sub-titled film is mostly in Slovakian.
One of the women who took part was Monika Rakasova, who lives in Margate.
She said: “It came about at out of our weekly coffee time, where we meet at a community centre every Monday. Philippa asked if we would help and we were very happy to. Every time I see the film I have tears in my eyes. We are very proud women, very proud mothers, very proud of breastfeeding – and proud of this film.”
Philippa told invited guests at the launch that she was surprised breastfeeding rates were low in the Roma community.
She said: “I was sad to find out that many Roma mums didn’t breastfeed and I was curious also as to why, when these women come from a strong background of breastfeeding. We rarely see Roma women at our breastfeeding clinics, which we hold to support new mums, and we wanted to reach out to this community.
“I thought a film would be a good way to raise awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding and to support mothers to breastfeed. I hope it will be shared locally and nationally.
“From the information I’ve gathered in Folkestone, Dover and Thanet, breastfeeding rates in the Roma communities are low, lower than the national average. I hope this film will improve things in future.”
Jarmila Petrasova also took part in the film and now works for KCHFT as part of the One You team which advises on healthy lifestyles from diet and fitness to giving up smoking.
Last year KCHFT and Kent County Council received funding from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to improve access to healthcare.
The two-year-project began in October 2018, with focus on improving the health of people and families from the Roma and other migrant communities and to reduce health inequalities. Many families are not registered with a GP and dentist and there is a low uptake of health visitor support for child development reviews.
The project is funding training for health professionals within KCHFT and partner organisations to understand cultural difference and challenges facing people from migrant communities and for a dedicated team of health visitors, school nurses and health improvement specialists to provide care to populations which health professionals often find difficult to reach. One of its aims is to increase rates of breastfeeding.