Tony Wright has been supporting communities across Manchester for over 40 years. Whether it’s accompanying someone to a doctor’s appointment or taking a neighbour who struggles with isolation and loneliness out for a pint, for Tony it’s about making those connections to help people and communities to thrive.
Tony, who was born in Jamaica and moved to Manchester when he was 13 years old, has been a part of lots of initiatives over the years. He's helped with youth projects, supporting people into jobs and more recently as a cancer champion and raising awareness of diabetes in lesser-heard communities across Manchester.
Tony, 59, says: “For me it’s just about reacting to people’s needs. When you’re part of a community, you understand the struggles people have in accessing services. Sometimes the people running those services might not understand these barriers and our job is to advocate for our communities, encouraging people to access services and helping those running the services to make them accessible. It’s also about making sure service providers see that they often need to do more to understand the needs of the different communities they serve.”
A lot of Tony’s work is specifically focused on the Black community in South Manchester, where there is a very diverse population but also huge inequality.
Tony adds: “People often talk about Black communities and South Asian communities as ‘hard to reach’ rather than looking at it from a different perspective and asking whether enough is being done to reach these communities and make services accessible. I see the gaps in local services and healthcare that make it difficult for people to access them and particularly for people from ethnic communities.”
“These same communities are disproportionately affected by serious health issues and long-term conditions like diabetes. We’ve also seen these same communities hit hardest by Covid-19.”
Tony lost his daughter Dominique to sickle cell disease. For him, getting people to open up and talk about their health, can help with living well and getting the right care. He is a cancer champion, helping to raise awareness of the risks and spotting symptoms, and Tony has also been supporting Diabetes UK for over five years, helping spread awareness and share resources at events he helps to organise.
Type 2 diabetes is two to four times more likely in people of South Asian descent and African-Caribbean or Black African descent.
In recent years, Tony has set up his own community interest company, called Socio-Economic Regeneration CIC, to bring the work he has been doing for years, all under one roof. Its aim is to improve health and social care provision for disadvantaged communities.
Tony adds: “Sometimes people just need to know where they can access help and support. It’s also about looking at the wider picture, improving health isn’t just about the strictly medical side of things, it’s about improving other aspects of our society. It’s hard to live well in a society that makes it difficult to do so. Sometimes it can be something as simple as making dietary advice more relevant to the foods eaten in specific communities and often it’s about raising awareness of the barriers people face.”
“For me, this work doesn’t stop, it’s ongoing and as long as there is a need, I will keep doing what I’m doing.”