Working with faith centres in Sandwell to improve air quality via behavioural change

In response to the challenge of improving air quality in Sandwell, Sandwell Council’s Air Quality team made a successful bid to DEFRA's 2021 Air Quality Grant fund. The grant will be used to engage with faith leaders and their communities across the whole borough. We want to raise awareness about air pollution and create behavioural change to improve the health of the participants and their local communities.

Sandwell is a superdiverse, multi-cultural and multi-faith borough, and has some of the largest and well-attended faith centres in the country. We want to support our faith-based organisations in leading the way towards community-driven, community-designed improvements in air quality. This is an important issue as ethnicity is strongly correlated to air pollution exposure as we know ethnic minorities are more likely to live in polluted areas.  As there is a significant representation of people who are black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) within Sandwell’s faith communities, working to reduce their exposure to air pollution is a priority for the Air Quality team.

Currently eight faith centres are taking part in the second year of the project. These are:
  • Salvation Army, Cradley Heath
  • Centre for Oneness, Wednesbury
  • Holy Trinity Church, Smethwick
  • Oldbury Mosque, Smethwick
  • Community Link, Cradley Heath
  • Guru Har Rai Gurdwara Sahib, West Bromwich
  • Shah Jalal Mosque, Tipton
  • Wednesbury Baptist Church, Wednesbury
Each centre will receive a low-cost air quality monitor “Zephyr” for a year, located near to their centre. The information relayed from the air quality monitor will be accessed via the internet on Sandwell’s bespoke air quality dashboard. This dashboard will be accessed via computer, tablet or smart phone, and will be available for everyone to see at a glance if there are low, medium or high levels of air pollution at various locations across the six towns of Sandwell. To assist with bringing this air quality dashboard to the attention of each faith community, a Wi-Fi enabled 43” display screen will be provided in a prominent place in the faith centre. The dashboard can be viewed here.

The faith centres also receive a toolkit, containing information about the types of indoor and outdoor air pollution, funding and grant opportunities, information for local businesses, methods of community engagement, sustainable forms of transport, ideas for campaigns and more. Before the monitor and toolkit, the centres are given a questionnaire to assess the level of understanding and perceived importance of air quality. Based on the dashboard and the toolkit, in addition to access to the Council’s Air Pollution Officers and support from the Public Health Development Officers, the centres will be encouraged to use all these resources to find intervention methods that best suit their specific centre’s needs and community. Each faith centre has different needs, so providing them with the tools to choose their own intervention methods allows each centre to have a tailored air quality plan. At the end of the project, they will also receive a second questionnaire, to measure any change in understanding and perceived importance of air quality.

If you are a part of a faith centre who has taken part in the project, please fill in the final questionnaire. It is available in English, Arabic, Nepali, Gujarat, Punjabi, Kurdish, Urdu and Bengali.

The air pollution toolkit for faith centres is also available, along with each of the monthly newsletters for the project.

Each newsletter follows a different air quality theme.

Thank you to the eight faith centres that took part in the first year of the project. These are:

  • Parish Church of St Francis Assisi, Wednesbury
  • Hindu Temple / Shree Pashupatinath Mandir (Shani Dham), Rowley Regis
  • Yemeni Community Association in Sandwell, West Bromwich
  • Guru Nanak Gurdwara Smethwick, Smethwick
  • Shri Venkateswara (Balaji) Temple, Oldbury
  • Smethwick Jamia Masjid, Smethwick
  • The Wesley Centre for All, Wednesbury
  • St Matthews, Tipton