Online breast cancer awareness programme launched to help save lives

By | General, News, Newsroom

A vital programme aimed at raising awareness of the importance of breast screening is now available online.

The Women’s Resource and Development Agency’s (WRDA) ground-breaking awareness programme was originally developed to help tackle inequalities in the uptake of breast cancer screening – as women living in deprived circumstances are less likely to attend.

The programme aims to raise awareness, explore and address fears surrounding breast screening and encourage participants to attend. The work is funded by the Public Health Agency.

With Covid-19 ruling out the usual face to face awareness raising sessions, the WRDA Training and Development Team has created integrated online awareness programmes, including webinars, Zoom group sessions and a series of animated storyboards, so this vital work can continue.

WRDA Director Anne McVicker said: “The online programme spreads the message of the importance of screening in finding breast cancers early and in potentially saving lives. It also covers breast cancer symptoms and advises anyone with those symptoms to contact their GP as soon as possible even during the pandemic. It is essential that we get these key messages out widely now.”

The Northern Ireland Breast Screening Programme uses mammograms (a type of x-ray) to help find breast cancer early, when it is easier to treat. Although routine breast cancer screening was paused for several months due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it restarted again in July 2020.

Dr Adrian Mairs from the Public Health Agency said: “The WRDA online resources are an excellent way of sharing important information about breast care and reminding women who notice changes in their breasts to contact their GP as soon as possible. Screening remains the best way we have of detecting breast cancer at an early stage when treatment can be more effective.”

Feedback from the WRDA programme indicates that women are much more likely to attend for screening after participating in the programme. A survey of participants who took part in the face to face sessions before the pandemic, showed that 98% intend to regularly check their breasts, while 99% reported they would attend for breast screening when next invited by the Breast Screening Programme.

The WRDA is currently taking bookings for group sessions delivered on Zoom and the three webinars are also available on the WRDA website: https://wrda.net/breast-cervical-and-bowel-screening-awareness-programme/

Chartered marketers take on digital challenges heightened by pandemic.

By | Business, General, News

Four Northern Ireland business women are among the first 100 professionals in the world to become accredited advisors in a globally recognised marketing model that will help businesses plan a recovery from the devastating economic impact of the pandemic.

As SOSTAC® Certified Planners, marketing strategy experts Lydia McClelland, Denise Hamill, Christine Watson and licensed tutor Debbie Rymer are actively working with companies to improve their digital presence to survive in a world at battle with the devastating impact of the Covid-19 virus.

“Digital marketing skills have never been more important than they are in the midst of the ongoing pandemic, which has seen seismic shifts in both buying habits and use of technology for communication and business transactions,” said Debbie Rymer of SAND Marketing.

Organisations need to make drastic changes to their marketing strategy to adjust to the huge changes in digital communications. There is a massive digital skills gap in businesses, which is reported to be costing the UK economy an estimated £4.4 billion per year.

“Companies that invest to train their staff in the latest technologies will be best placed to adapt and flourish in the new economic reality,” explained Lydia McClelland of LMC Associates.

Voted in the top three business models worldwide by the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), SOSTAC® Certified Planners are equipped with the skills and knowledge required to help organisations develop and implement highly effective marketing strategies that align with overall business strategy.

“The global pandemic has prioritised digital communications but going forward, organisations need to invest in digital transformation strategies to tackle this skills gap and ensure sustainability in uncertain times. Utilising SOSTAC® methodology for strategy development will help businesses develop a much clearer strategic approach,” said Denise Hamill of Digital Den Marketing.

By putting strategy before tactical delivery, organisations are more likely to achieve optimal results, and ensure sustainability in competitive landscapes.

 “The impact of technology and ongoing transformation in the global economy make it essential for marketers at all levels to continually upskill throughout their careers to meet the standards outlined by the industry governing body of the marketing profession, CIM and to proactively ensure that all steps possible are taken to add significant value to the organisations and consumers they serve. SOSTAC is a robust framework that helps assure all stakeholders that marketing investments move beyond panic fire-fighting to align with the changing opportunities that exist in the marketplace and deliver positive return,” added Christine Watson of Watson & Co Chartered Marketing.

For more information, go to www.sand-marketing.co.uk/sostac/

Urgent call for reform of Maternity provision Covid restrictions

By | News, Newsroom

New mothers are suffering needless trauma and anxiety due to Covid-19 restrictions during pregnancy and birth, according to a campaign group trying to reform strict Department of Health rules.

The Mothers Matter #marchformaternity Campaign group is urgently calling for Health Minister Robin Swann to reconsider the safety rules governing the involvement of birthing partners at antenatal appointments, labour and birth and on postnatal wards.

They have organised a series of online action days culminating on Friday 23rd October at 1pm with a discussion between birth workers and political representatives to find practical ways to improve restrictions on maternity services.

The campaign was started by Claire Hackett, Emma Fraser and Leslie Altic, all birth workers who support women and their partners through pregnancy and birth.

“The current rules force women to attend some appointments on their own and also mean that the birth partner can only come into the delivery suite once the woman is in labour. This is causing additional anxiety during an already stressful time,” Claire Hackett said.

They are holding a series of online action days in a bid to change current restrictions, which have forced many mums to go through parts of the birthing process alone.

“For months we have watched the way parents were being treated in the name of Covid-19 prevention and it’s simply heart breaking. We felt we had to speak out, we couldn’t sit by and let this continue to happen when there are simple alternative solutions that would save the NHS money in the long run,” Claire said.

One mum-to-be Colleen Tunney spoke during the first action day, explaining that the restrictions were causing additional stress for parents. She is now 27 weeks pregnant but having had a previous stillbirth, every antenatal appointment is a time of worry and she says she would feel more supported if her husband was there.

“Anyone who has lost a baby will know the worry you have that you’ll hear bad news when you go to an appointment. The anxiety builds up and you just need your partner there with you,” she said.

The Mothers Matter #marchformaternity Campaign is calling for health reforms that take into consideration the following:

  • Partners are not ‘visitors’ and the woman and her birth partner should be treated as a unit, where the partner can attend all appointments, labour and birth and on the postnatal ward.
  • Pregnancy is not an illness and maternity care has specific considerations that current punitive restrictions fail to take into account.

“We understand the need to keep women, their babies and staff safe during the pandemic. But having a baby is a vulnerable time for parents and women need their birth partner, who is often the other parent to the baby and someone they know and trust, with them for physical and emotional comfort and supportWe feel that this is a human rights issue as their birth choices are being stripped away,” said organiser Leslie Altic.

In addition, the three women say that a lack of support can have a knock-on effect on physical and mental health issues.

“The physiological and mental health impact of restrictions, through increased rates of intervention, increased rates of perinatal mental health issues, and birth trauma can have a financial impact on our already stretched health services,” Emma Fraser added.

Their series of actions kicked off on Sunday the 18th of October with an online discussion by parents who have experienced pregnancy and birth during the pandemic.

This was followed on Tuesday 20th October at 8pm with a discussion on the impact of the restrictions beyond birth, looking at birth trauma and mental health.

Finally on Friday 23rd October at 1pm they will be joined by birth workers and political representatives to look at what practical considerations need to be taken into account when looking at restrictions on maternity services and why they are important.

For more information go to https://www.facebook.com/mothersmatterni/

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NI Youth Forum launches new Covid survey ‘Our Voices – Speaking Truth To Power’

By | General, News, Newsroom

Young people in Northern Ireland were today urged to take part in a new survey to express their views as strict new restrictions were introduced by the Stormont Executive to combat Covid-19.

The Northern Ireland Youth Forum launched its third pandemic consultation ‘Our Voices – Speaking Truth to Power’ to consult with young people on the impact of COVID 19 and to hold decision makers to account.

Two previous surveys held in March and May each attracted more than 1,000 responses and the views expressed by young people were used to inform a series of ‘Zoom meetings’ with the Health Minister, Robin Swann, Education Minister Peter Weir and with a panel of MLAs supporting youth concerns.

Chris Quinn, NIYF Director said: “It is vitally important that young people have their say on this really important issue. We have already conducted two successful consultations on Covid-19. Young people told us that they want their views to be heard therefore we are putting the call out again to provide a direct link between young people and our politicians in relation to combatting Covid-19 within the backdrop of these heightened restrictions”.

Adam Crothers, one of the young members involved with the NI Youth Forum, said that it was vital that politicians listened to the views of young people, whose education and mental health has been severely impacted by the pandemic.

He said: “These surveys have been remarkably successful in facilitating the voices of over 1,000 young people from NI to be heard – but we want more. Our third survey aims to build on this success and use the responses to inform decision makers within government to ensure young people are represented.”

Adam pointed out that in one of the previous surveys 80% of respondents said that those in power were not listening to them.

He added: “Now is their opportunity to be listened to as this pandemic is irrevocably altering young people’s futures. I would call on young people across Northern Ireland to participate in this survey so we can project your views, speak truth to those in power and move forward with decision makers in a spirit of co-operation”.

To take part in the ‘Our Voices: Speaking Truth To Power’ survey go to: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/GZ3CGBJ

To watch a special video about the survey go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CLOu8Qx–lg

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