Eye Health project 2020, Research

Eurosom listening event in partnership with Citizens UK. This project has been made possible with Aston University and Aston Villa Foundation.


Wed 11 March 2020 from 09:00am to 12:00


Participant’s demographics:

Gender 99% female 1% male
Age 40% 35-45 60% 45-65
Race 100% Black African
Religion 100% Islam

The participants listened with the support of translation to the induction presentations from Aston University and Aston Villa Foundation. It has been made clear that both institutions are working together to research the Eye Health project, This project is part of Citizens UK Birmingham listening events facilitated through community interest groups. Eurosom is one of the facilitator community interest groups based in Nechells ward. The turnout was relatively strong with the majority of participants engaging well with the research group.

The event was organised at the Quba centre, a local mosque with community access facilities. This venue was chosen due to the local approximately to participants’ homes and places of work. The recruitment of the participants took place through the Eurosom member’s network.

The importance of engagement has been stressed by Abdinasir Ahmed, who played a key role in organising this listening event. The participants were aware this was a listening event organised for their opinions and experiences to be shared with the research team at Aston University and the Aston Villa Foundation.

With the help of translation, the participants listened attentively to the presentations and the questions asked by the team of researchers.

Key areas of interest shared during discussions and Q&A’s:


  • Experience of getting children’s eyes tested; A lot of the participants were mothers and have/had school aged children. Their experiences varied with nursery, primary to secondary school aged children. The younger the children were at the age of 4-5 the nurseries and primary school staff were referring the children to get their eyes tested. Those children often were those whose eyes were teary or squinting. Once referrals were made, the parents would take the children to go see the optician for a full eye test. At some occasions eye health experts would come into the children schools offering tests in the school environment. The experiences of the parents with older children 5-11 years category, included the children experiencing headaches, sleeping a lot and a lack of concentration during school classes. After visiting GP’s and health experts at the Eye hospital referrals were made to opticians. Some of the parents take their children every 6 months for a test after referrals. Some parents do not take them for tests at all. A reminder letter was seen as a helpful tool to remind parents every 6 months to take their children for an eye test. During the tests there was a language barrier identified especially with staff at Specsavers. Another key point raised by a number of parents included the lack of quality glasses provided by local opticians in this area. Parents had to go back for a second or third replacement glasses as the first prescription was not useful. The participants found out about the different eye health issues/needs if a test is not practiced regularly especially for diabetic and people who suffer from chronic health problems. They have requested for Aston Villa Foundation to visit the community once every few months for an eye test


  • What health issues are important for them to research? The conversation was very much focused on accessing general health – in 80% of participants. GP access has been identified as a particular problem especially for those in employment and lone parents. Those in employment have shared their lack of time to visit the GP and that appointments would take months to book. Lone parent households identified childcare a great problem due to the school run hours. This has stopped a lot of the mothers to visit their GP on a regular basis as well as going into A&E as they are worried about childcare. As a result this has added pressures to their general health as well as widening the health inequality gap in this ward. Asthma is a key health issue identified by the participants. A lot of the participants expressed they were suffering from Astma or have a family member/ or a child suffering from Astma. One area participants identified more training and information was required is the use of inhalers. The second health area participants felt the need for more research is mental health, mental health has been identified as a major key area of health problems within this community. A lot of different factors have played a role in this health need.  Higher percentages of lone parent families, higher access to crime, lack of youth intervention and support with community access all, contributed to the mental health needs. The participants requested the university to support a research in this area and identify prevention work with youth services. External pressures such as crime, antisocial behaviours, low attainment and achievement are adding pressures to health problems such as diabetic, stress, anxiety and depression in these household. One participants identified multiple health needs in her family. The lack of employment opportunities locally in the city centre area and other business development hubs have contributed to participants experiences. The shortage of neighbourhood advice services in this area has contributed to lack of accessing welfare rights services such as financial and debt relief. Often participants have to travel to other areas to access advice and often have to pay a fee. This creates extra financial pressures on disadvantaged social economic households. This has left agencies such as Eurosom to pick up the pieces as a direct result of local government cuts to neighbourhood access points.



The listening event was well attended and well participated in. It has given the participants the opportunity to share their experiences over the years in accessing eye health services and other general health services in the city.  They were happy to meet people in positions of influence with whom they could share their story. Some of the participants left early due to work commitments but the majority finished the session. The participants did not mind sharing their findings in the research but did not enjoy taking pictures. . The importance of eye health is not just being able to see something but understanding the importance of healthy lifestyles and taking early preventative measures to stay fit and healthy.


There are limited efforts at researching the needs and trends within our community, so we have recently developed our capacity to collaborate with others to do this.

In 2016, we held focus groups and assisted researchers from the Centre for Research in Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship at the University of Birmingham to understand the needs of Somali entrepreneurs located on Coventry Road in Small Heath.

In 2017, we featured in the ‘Africa is you’ project looking at research into our communities post EU referendum.

Below are useful links to a number of UK reports and articles related to the Somali community:

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