Diversity, ethnicity and voice: enabling women to speak up about safety concerns in pregnancy and the postnatal period

Key points of the project

  • There is a lack of research exploring critical relationships between culture, language and patient safety
  • The Re-Assure project was a pilot to test the use of animation to enable women to share safety concerns about life threatening illness in pregnancy
  • This follow-on project will test whether the script and storyboard meanings from the Re-Assure film are shared and hold significance for women from South Asian communities

Background to the project

While for the most part, pregnancy and birth is a normal physiological process, emergencies can develop rapidly and unexpectedly with the potential for serious outcomes for mother and/or baby. Policy guidance recommends empowering women to self-care, strengthening families’ capacity to contribute to women’s safety, and community level programmes to foster help seeking. However, little is known about the implications of patent safety partnerships for women and families of minority cultural and language backgrounds. Further research is needed to ensure that resources and safety programmes are cross-culturally relevant, and informed by the experiences of ethnic minority users of health services.

An overview of the research study

The Re-Assure project was an arts-science pilot, funded by the Cultural Institute at King’s College London, which built on a programme of research [1.,2.] to test the use of animation to enable women to share safety concerns about life threatening illness in pregnancy. With the help of 34 women who had experienced complications in pregnancy, staff from Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Hospital, 3rd sector organisations and two artists, the research team developed a short 5 minute film about speaking up for safety. The project prompted a social media campaign, ‘Always Ask’ led by Tommy’s charity.

While the demographic profile of the sample for the original research was mixed, the women participants for the Re-Assure project had higher levels of education, and were mostly of white British origin. The Diversity, ethnicity and voice aims to work with local community centres in Leicester to test whether the film and messages about ‘speaking up about safety’ are culturally relevant for pregnant women in South Asian communities. The project team, which involves the Attenborough Arts Centre and the East Midlands Centre for BME Health, will carry out focus groups and interviews with pregnant women and community leads to explore how best to ensure the resource is culturally and linguistically meaningful. The team will establish the best ways to promote pregnancy related resources through faith based and cultural / social networks.

Who is on the research team

Dr Nici Mackintosh - SAPPHIRE, University of Leicester
Dr Andy Willis - Centre for BME Health
Michaela Butter - Attenborough Arts Centre
Gurdeep Sian - Attenborough Arts Centre
Liz Shaw - SAPPHIRE, University of Leicester


The research group have written up an overview of their findings in a flyer.

A news item about the project is available on the Centre for BME Health website.


1. Rance S, McCourt C, Rayment J, et al. Women's safety alerts in maternity care: is speaking up enough? BMJ Qual Saf, 2013:348-55.
2. Mackintosh, N; Rance, S.; Carter, W., Sandall, J., 2017. Working for patient safety: a qualitative study of women’s help-seeking during acute perinatal events. BMC pregnancy and childbirth

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