Research report: Roma access to healthcare and long-term care

ERGO Network launches its research report on Roma access to healthcare and long-term care

The European Roma Grassroots Organisations (ERGO) Network held its annual Policy Conference on 23 November, entitled “Implementing the EU Roma Strategic Framework. Roma access to healthcare and long-term care.” A significant health inequality gap exists between the Roma and the majority population, persisting across every area of physical and mental health and wellbeing, including rates of suicide, disability, life expectancy, and infant mortality. The Covid-19 pandemic laid bare and worsened the pre-existing dire situation of Roma health in Europe.

The EU Roma Strategic Framework for Equality, Inclusion, and Participation 2020 – 2030 includes as one of its four sectoral objectives “Improve Roma health and increase effective equal access to quality healthcare and social services”, while the Council Recommendation on Roma Equality, Inclusion and Participation features a comprehensive section on “Health and access to quality healthcare and social services”, calling on Member States to “ensure equal access without barriers to quality healthcare and social services, especially for those groups that are most at risk or those living in marginalised or remote localities.” Ensuring access to health and long-term care is also extensively covered by the European Pillar of Social Rights, the compass for Europe’s recovery, while it is also supported by Goal 3 of the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.

During 2022, ERGO Network conducted in-depth national case studies in six countries (Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, and Spain), looking at the main determinants of Roma health as well as at the key barriers the Roma face when trying to access healthcare and long-term care services in these countries. The main findings and recommendations were brought together in an EU synthesis report, launched today in the framework of the above-mentioned event.

Key messages:

1. In all 6 countries, social determinants greatly influence a poor Roma state of health.

Tackle unsanitary dwellings and living conditions, exposure to environmental hazards, lack of adequate nutrition, dire poverty and material deprivation, and unhealthy working conditions.

2. High costs of healthcare and long-term care and gaps in health insurance coverage are significant deterrents for the Roma to seek care.

Support access to universal health insurance for all including the Roma and make healthcare and long-term care free or affordable at the point of use, including specialist care.

3. Limited healthcare and long-term care infrastructure and staff shortages are prevalent in rural and remote Roma communities.

Invest in an adequate supply of medical and care facilities, as well as qualified personnel, making healthcare and long-term care available to people where they live.

4. Roma health mediators play a key positive role which deserves better support.

Health mediators must be Roma themselves, anchored in the communities they serve but formally employed by the national health system with adequate pay, ongoing training, and due recognition.

5. The Roma continue to face widespread antigypsyism in healthcare and long-term care.

Combat prejudices and stereotypes within medical services and care facilities, ending segregation and ensuring anti-bias training and compliance with anti-discrimination legislation.

6. Roma communities and their civil society organisations must be involved in a bid to build trust and improve take-up.

Policy-makers, as well as healthcare and long-term care professionals, must cooperate closely with Roma stakeholders and their representatives, to ensure evidence-based solutions.

With this research, we aim to kick-start a debate with policy makers on how to improve the availability, accessibility, affordability, quality, inclusiveness, and take-up of healthcare and long-term care services by Europe’s Roma, including in the framework of the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan, the European Care Strategy, and the announced European initiative on Mental Health in 2023, among others.

For more information about ERGO Network’s work on Roma access to healthcare and long-term care, as well as on the European Care Strategy and related fields, please contact Senior Policy Adviser Amana Ferro.

Research report: Roma access to healthcare and long-term care – ERGO Network

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