BACKGROUND: The burden of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in Britain is concentrated in inner-city areas such as Sandwell, which is home to a diverse multi-ethnic population. Current guidance for CVD risk screening is not established, nor are there specific details for ethnic minorities. Given the disparity in equitable healthcare for these groups, we developed a 'tailored' and systematic approach to CVD risk screening within communities of the Sandwell locality. The key anticipated outcomes were the numbers of participants from various ethnic backgrounds attending the health screening events and the prevalence of known and undiagnosed CVD risk within ethnic groups. METHODS: Data was collected during 10 health screening events (September 2005 and July 2006), which included an assessment of raised blood pressure, overweight, hyperlipidaemia, impaired fasting glucose, smoking habit and the 10 year CVD risk score. Specific features of our approach included (i) community involvement, (ii) a clinician who could deliver immediate attention to adverse findings, and (iii) the use of an interpreter. RESULTS: A total of 824 people from the Sandwell were included in this study (47% men, mean age 47.7 years) from community groups such as the Gujarati Indian, Punjabi Indian, European Caucasian, Yemeni, Pakistani and Bangladeshi. A total of 470 (57%) individuals were referred to their General Practitioner with a report of an increased CVD score - undetected high blood pressure in 120 (15%), undetected abnormal blood glucose in 70 (8%), undetected raised total cholesterol in 149 (18%), and CVD risk management review in 131 (16%). CONCLUSION: Using this systematic and targeted approach, there was a clear demand for this service from people of various ethnic backgrounds, of whom, one in two needed review from primary or secondary healthcare. Further work is required to assess the accuracy and clinical benefits of this community health screening approach.