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Led by Queen Mary: Genes & Health Study on South Asians Attracts 50,000 Volunteers

With a new record of 50,000 volunteers for a genetics study on British South Asians, Genes & Health is continuing research to understand the health problems from which this minority group suffer. Often under-represented groups for research are Bangladeshi and Pakistani Britons, who make up much of East London’s minority population.

The study (which began in 2015) continues to be led by Queen Mary University of London and Kings College London who are attempting to reduce inequalities; to combat healthcare injustices for those whose health problems are not given as much time as necessary to be understood. More recently, however, the study led by QM and King’s has seemed very promising, recently attracting up to 50,000 volunteers, and rapidly reaching the halfway mark of its ideal and ambitious 100,000. The two universities in this partnership expect that we will see 100,000 volunteers apart of Genes & Health by 2024 in helping to conduct research towards creating more certainty and understanding regarding healthcare for minorities.

As numbers of volunteers increase, the study is being supported nationally, expanding to northern regions of the UK such as Manchester from beyond where it began within East London The 50,000th volunteer for Genes & Health, Zahid Chauhan OBE, says: ‘British South Asians are underrepresented in research and have had terrible outcomes from the COVID pandemic. I am delighted to be the … first (volunteer) for Manchester, bringing the research spotlight to health inequalities across England.’

A portion of a staggering £25 million investment from sciences companies to make discoveries about genes in correlation with health problems is going towards the study. South Asians consider it incumbent that the problems clearly affecting them more than any other ethnic group be addressed, (including Covid 19 and Type 2 diabetes). Working alongside Queen Mary, Barts NHS Health Trust is attempting to uncover why this population is more exposed to certain illnesses; they are also intent on discovering what action is being taken to improve healthcare experiences in such cases.

Recognising a need for change in June of last year, Genes & Health commented that ‘South Asian people make up 23% of the world, but less than 1% of the participants in research studies. This has a real impact on the relevance of research to their health.’ Indeed, many feel strongly about this issue and about the unknown dangers and uncertainties when it comes to genetics, hence the study’s far-reaching appeal.

With its strong reputation for serving the needs and interests of underrepresented pockets of society and providing research for better health, Queen Mary feels positive about this study and all those involved. ‘Genes & Health is doing what it said it would – bringing benefits to health deprived local communities. Our new scientific data and more volunteers will enable us to do even more to improve health…’ says Senior Lecturer at the university, Dr Sarah Finer.

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