Sastipen: Health and the Roma Population
Representatives of the Czech Government Office for Roma Community Affairs and the Vzájemné soužití (Life Together) civic association held a seminar on 23 September 2009 at the Lichtenstein Palace in Prague where they presented a national report on “Health and the Roma Population”. The report is part of a project analyzing the state of Roma health in Europe, “Health and the Roma Community”.
The conclusions of the publication “Sastipen: Health and the Roma Population” (Sastipen: Romská populace a zdraví) were presented at the seminar. This report is based on an anonymous survey of a representative sample of the Roma population that was conducted in the Czech Republic in November 2008. The analysis of these results was then compared with data from the population of the Czech Republic as a whole and with international data. The analysis was part of the project “Health and the Roma Community” financed through the EU Public Health Program with the support of the Czech Government and coordinated by the Spanish foundation Fundación Secretariado Gitano in the seven Member States that are part of the Sastipen network (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Greece, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain). The Office of the Czech Government Council for Roma Community Affairs and Vzájemné soužití coordinated the project in the Czech Republic, which involved many experts and local non-profit organizations.
The research provides a rather broad range of information on the state of the Roma population’s health. On the whole, the state of Roma health as represented by the data collected is relatively favorable; this is indicated, for example, by the subjective impressions of the Roma interviewed concerning their own health. Most respondents consider their health to be “good or very good” (two-thirds of the adult respondents and more than four-fifths of the minor respondents). In general, the data collected on disease and health problems in the community are not at all alarming. However, despite this relatively positive data, some groups among the Roma community are experiencing a relatively worse overall state of health.
A rather marked trend becomes apparent in the relationship between the quality of health and the age of the Roma population and is one of the negative characteristics of the health situation of the Roma population as a whole. While it is natural for health to relate to chronological age, a warning sign in the Roma population is that a comparatively below-average, worse picture of the state of their health becomes strikingly apparent during the upper range of middle age (45 – 59) and is very significant for Roma people aged 60 and over. This is also obvious from the respondents’ subjective perceptions of their own health (the feeling of “poor or very poor” health in the Roma population is double that of the societal average in the Czech Republic for the 45-59 age group and is four times more frequent for those aged 60 and older).
Some negative trends in the Roma community are related to lifestyle and personal health management. The primary factor here is smoking. The research data make it clear that all of the measures, outreach campaigns and debates on health management that have been conducted in recent years about smoking have not had much of an impact on the lifestyle of the Roma.
Comparatively deteriorated health among ethnic minorities is not just a problem in the Czech Republic, but is an EU-wide problem which must be addressed through the active cooperation of the state and its institutions with representatives of the various minority groups themselves. This should be one part of a broader concept for minority integration in which a key condition is the active participation of the minority in solving its own problems.
One outcome of the project is a comprehensive national report. The Office of the Czech Government will be distributing this report to professionals and the general public.
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