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Europe’s BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, with the Neasden Temple, one of the largest Hindu temples outside of India, has opened a new community health hub in west London. Following their continued support of the ARC OxTV supported PANORAMIC and PRINCIPLE trials, the temple’s interactive health hub will engage visitors around health awareness and wellbeing.

Opened by the Chief Pharmaceutical Officer of NHS England, David Webb, the hub was built as part of the ‘Festival of Inspiration’ — a 10-day cultural celebration of the UK’s South Asian Hindu communities. This festival, which ran from 22 to 31 July, drew upon and reflected the inspiring life, work, and wisdom of His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, one of the world’s great spiritual leaders and founder of the Neasden Temple. 

On Wednesday 27 July, Dr. Paula Wray (ARC OxTV Senior Manager), Prof Chris Butler (PRINCIPLE and PANORMAIC chieif investigator), and Prof Mahendra Patel (Pharmacy, Diversity and Inclusivity lead), amoung others, attended the special COVID-19 Awareness Day at Neasden Temple.  

Professor Mahendra Patel, the Pharmacy, and Inclusion and Diversity lead for both trials, was present at the opening ceremony. He said:

“This new health hub is truly inspiring and hugely uplifting to see so many healthcare volunteers coming forward from various disciplines, including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, nutritionists, podiatrists, and others all giving up their valuable time to encourage and support the local communities to better look after their health and well-being and preventing ill health. 

To add to this, it’s a privilege and tremendous honour for us from the trial team at Oxford to mark the opening of the Temple’s Covid Hub as part of these auspicious celebrations. We are all grateful for the amazing support Neasden Temple has given through Yogvivek Swamji and the BAPS Board of Trustees and their teams in helping us to reach out to the Hindu community UK-wide by raising awareness of our trials and encouraging more people from all backgrounds to take part. It’s even more impressive that they work with the local councils to reach out to communities and faiths other than the Hindu community. 

I see this unique relationship between us and the Neasden Temple as one that we would want to work even more closely with, especially in helping us in the future to reach out to those communities that are often under-represented in clinical research."

Earlier this year, Sadhu Yogvivekdas, Head of the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha community for the UK and Europe, spread awareness of the PANORAMIC Trial in a customised YouTube video that was shared widely within the BAPS community. Providing an overview of the eligibility requirements, Yogvivekdas explained that those with COVID-19 symptoms may be able to join online from home or via GP practices across the country, sometimes without the need for face-to-face visits. 

The PANORAMIC and PRINCIPLE trials have both focused on developing and maintaining grassroots partnerships with diverse communities and places of worship across the UK.  

Co-Lead of both the PANORAMIC and PRINCIPLE trials, Professor Chris Butler from Oxford University’s Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, said:  

"BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha UK supporting promotion of this important UK-wide flagship public health trial to communities, families and individuals is a welcome and significant step in helping us to reach out to communities as widely as possible. 

“We know that minority ethnic groups in the UK more often get severely unwell when they become ill with Covid-19. It is so important that research involves those that stand to benefit the most from the evidence that trials generate. The PRINCIPLE and PANORMAIC Trias are truly democratic and UK-wide and strive to be as inclusive as possible.  

We were highly privileged to meet and be blessed by Pujya Yogvivek Swamiji himself, who is personally very interested and supportive of the trials we are doing to test early treatments for COVID 19 in the community, and he continues to do a huge amount to promote community participation in research in general, including vaccination trials and COVID trials like PRINCIPLE and PANORAMIC. Having input from the community into the design, delivery and implementation of findings from trials means that outcomes will be widely applicable, owned, and thus used.” 

Professor Patel, who developed the collaboration with the BAPS Temple in Neasden said: 

"It's important that we continue to encourage recruitment of volunteers to tour studies irrespective of their ethnic and socioeconomic background and to be as inclusive and representative as possible in terms of the diversity of our British diaspora." 

“Places of worship are commonly seen as a place of trust and can help play a huge part in reaching out to its followers, and it’s not surprising that the work of the Temple in supporting our national clinical trials can be a lesson for all on how we can in some instances better engage with ethnic minority communities, and to help in the wider scheme of things when it comes to generating meaningful evidence through research that could lead to improving health and health outcomes.” 

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